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Shipping & Logistics

Mombasa port makes key gains but competition a major threat

Mv.GH SCIROCCO
The Mv.GH SCIROCCO docking at the Port of Mombasa to offload and load containers for export this month. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The Port of Mombasa has recorded increased cargo volumes attributed to a set of reforms and heavy investment along Northern Corridor which have significantly reduced cost of transport to landlocked countries.

Cross-border trade facilitation at One Stop Border Post (OSBP) has also been key in attracting landlocked countries to trade with the Kenyan port, resulting to increase of cargo throughput.

On Wednesday last week, the Port of Mombasa crossed its one million mark, with the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) managing director Daniel Manduku saying the low cost of operations, among other gains, has attracted regional countries to use the facility more.

“This year we crossed the one million mark three months before the close of the year and it’s a good indicator as we aim to beat the 1.3 million Twenty Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) target compared to 1.2 million TEUs last year,” said Mr Manduku during a media tour last week.

He said South Sudan, Uganda and DR Congo are the main users of the port.

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According to a latest report by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), cost of transport in landlocked countries in East African reduced by more than 16 percent due to infrastructure investments and cross-border trade facilitations along the corridor.

“Port usage share for Mombasa Port is expected to change due to the (Northern) Corridor and OSBP development and it would contribute to broadening its hinterland to Tanzania border, eastern part of South Sudan, and Burundi,” read part of the report.

Some of the reforms in the Northern Corridor which have boosted trade at the Port of Mombasa include the introduction of motion weighbridges and reduction of number of border points, enabling trucks to move faster.

Use of technology to track cargo has been one of the changes that has increased efficiency. Also introduction of Standard Gauge Railway has reduced delays which were being experienced before such as scanning of transit cargo, delays in verification of cargo, overstay of cargo at Container Freight Stations.

Port of Mombasa has been ranked fifth in Africa in cargo volumes after Egypt’s Port Said, Durban in South Africa, Tanger Med in Morocco, and Alexandria in Egypt with Port of Dar Es Salaam reported to have handled only 60 percent of what is currently being handled in Mombasa.

Despite making important progress in improving efficiency, the Mombasa facility still faces tough competition from regional rivals.

Burundi is now bringing in most of its cargo through Dar es Salaam whose efficiency has improved significantly following heavy investment from the World Bank which pumped $345 million.

Records indicate a significant fall of business between Kenya and Burundi with paltry 1,000 tonnes reported to have imported through Port of Mombasa in the first seven months of this year, compared to a total 21,000 tonnes during the same period last year.

Cargo on transit to Tanzania from the Kenyan port also dropped by 9.4 percent from 151,000 tonnes in 2018 to 141,000 tonnes in the past seven months this year with tonnage expected to drop much further in the near future.

However, Kenya has an edge in terms of costs. An average cost of transporting a 40-foot container from Mombasa to Nairobi went down to Sh70,000 last year from a high of 100,000 in 2011 while that from Mombasa to Kampala came down to Sh200,000 this year from Sh340,000 over the same period.

This is lower compared to the Central Corridor mainly serving the port of Dar-es-Salaam, where rates recorded a marginal increase, placing Mombasa as the cheapest entry point for goods into the region.

Data by the Shippers Council of East Africa shows the cost of transport from Dar es Salaam to Kampala increased due to poor infrastructure thus making Northern Corridor best bet for Uganda.

The Central Corridor has the port of Dar es Salaam serving as a key hub for imports and exports mostly to Rwanda, Burundi and the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

But the lack of infrastructure development has disadvantaged the Port of Dar Es Salaam, something Mombasa facility is capitalising on to maintain its status as the region’s logistics hub.

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