The Kenya Ports Authority targets to clear a fresh backlog of containers at Mombasa port by Friday following a workers’ strike that disrupted operations at the busy regional port last week.
More than 2,000 workers went on strike on Wednesday and Thursday to protest against higher deductions for the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) scheme, prompting port management to fire several of them.
The work stoppage disrupted business at the port which handles imports such as fuel for Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia.
This led to a pile up of cargo containers, further threatening the efficiency of the facility already hard-hit by the pressure of uncollected cargo.
“We have improved efficiency within the normal working hours to ensure that we clear the backlog by Friday,” KPA spokesman Hajj Masemo told Shipping & Logistics, adding that operations at the port had returned to normalcy.
The strike disrupted the supply of goods to Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan, Burundi and DRC and created a backlog of about 2,500 twenty-foot containers. Since operations resumed on Friday, container freight stations (CFS) have embarked on an aggressive campaign to clear imported cargo and avoid further delays.
“The CFSs and importers have taken advantage of the 24-hour operations of the port and most of them are opting to come at night, when there is less traffic, to clear their cargo, ” said Mr Masemo.
“Over the weekend we saw the largest ever move of cargo for the three-day period of between Friday and Sunday. We moved 5,075 twenty foot containers up from the average 4,500 containers normally cleared over the weekend,” he said. The port was also able to clear 1,641 twenty foot containers on Monday.
Mr Masemo said that the management planned to tap into the efficiency witnessed after the strike to ensure that they surpass last year’s historical performance of one million container cargo clearance.
“Last year we cleared one million and 12 containers but our target is to clear 1.2 million by the end of the year. If we maintain the efficiency we have been experiencing over the last three days we might see the clearance rise to even 1.3 million,” he added.
Data shows a 13 per cent increase in growth of cargo moved across the port in the first three months of the year compared to the same period last year.
KPA management estimates the loss of revenue due the strike at Sh200 million, but Mr Masemo said that conclusive estimates will be issued once the weekly port performance analysis is completed on Friday.
The management also said that businesses in East Africa had lost more than Sh1 billion from the two-day strike at the port resulting from delayed cargo or failed deliveries. Importers, however, want the port management to compensate them for the Sh800 million loss incurred during the strike.
The Association of Importers of Kenya has given the Attorney General 30 days to compel KPA to pay for the loss suffered by its 4,000 members.
At the height of the strike KPA issued a statement saying that it had sacked more than 100 employees who had participated in the strike, including several officials of the Dock Workers Union.
KPA placed an advert in local media calling for coxswain, port clerks, terminal tractor drivers and operators of forklifts, top loaders and winch machine operators to replace the striking workers.
Acting Transport minister James Macharia later said that he had annulled the sackings although the port management maintained that it would not take back the workers.