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Shipping & Logistics

Flower exporters fault night closure of JKIA runway

fresh flowers
Marie Muthui admires fresh flowers on sale along Links road in Nyali, Mombasa in this photo taken on 5th February 2019. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NMG 

The Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) is on the spot following its routine annual night closure of airport runway for maintenance between March and April, the period when the horticulture exports are at its peak.

The Kenya Flower Council chief executive officer Clement Tulezi said the move affects their orders as well as compromise on the quality of the produce given that much of the shipment is done at night.

KAA normally conducts routine maintenance every year to repair some of the damaged sections of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) with the period coinciding with Valentines and Mother’s Day when the produce is in high demand.

“We would like to urge the management of the airport to consider rescheduling the time when they conduct the annual maintenance such that it does not coincide with the peak season when flowers are in high demand,” said Mr Tulezi.

His sentiments were echoed by the chief executive of Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya Hosea Machuki who said the 10pm to 5am closure of the runway has negative effects to the flower industry.

“The timing is not right for the business and it should be done during low season,” said Mr Machuki yesterday during the official release of the 2018 results.

KAA did not respond to Shipping’s questions by the time of going to press yesterday.

The stakeholders also decried delays in clearance of consignments meant for shipping by relevant government agencies.

With a single runway at JKIA, it makes it hard for the airport to operate during closure of the flying path.

Construction of the second runway at the airport appears to have been shelved as it was not on the list of major projects earmarked for 208/2019 by KAA.

In May last year, the Ministry of Transport said although the project had not been cancelled, the government was deliberating on its economic viability before it embarks on what it terms “capital intensive venture”.

In February 2018, KAA announced that the cost of the runway had been revised downwards from Sh37 billion to Sh21.9 billion.

The JKIA is a major hub for passengers connecting to Europe, US and even the Middle East and the numbers are expected to be boosted following the launch of direct flights between Nairobi and New York.

Kenya’s delay with the expansion of JKIA comes at a time when regional countries are revamping their airport infrastructure as they position themselves to attract global airlines.

Expansion of Tanzania’s main airport is currently on course, a project likely to reduce Dar es Salaam’s reliance on Nairobi for transit flights by some of European airlines.

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