- The highest number of trains was recorded in July when the Chinese built-operate-transfer SGR handled 258 trains to Nairobi alone
- Importers have accused the government of denying them the freedom to choose their preferred mode of transport
Cargo volumes hauled by the Standard Gauge Railway(SGR) continues to grow making the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) optimistic of setting a new record this year.
With four months to the end of the year, KPA has surpassed the total tonnage hauled between January and August last year, falling only short of 2018 full year volumes by 146,527 tonnes.
Data from the Nairobi Inland Container Depot(ICD) shows in the first eight months of this year, total tonnage was 2,784,171 compared to 2018's full-year tonnage of 2,930,698 for both Nairobi bound cargo and return to Mombasa.
The total number of trains for the eight months have surpassed full-year 2018 closing at 1,702 against the 1,686 trains recorded last year.
During the eight months, a total of 85,796 wagons were moved to the Embakasi ICD with Nairobi bound cargo(both containerised and bulk) weighing a total of 2.4 million tonnes.
This is slightly below last year's full-year volumes of 2.6 million tonnes, meaning there is room to set a new record by December 31.
KPA managing director Daniel Manduku has pegged the improved performance to enhanced efficiency.
"We have removed many obstacles that slowed down business and we are confident that the reforms we have undertaken will bear more fruit soon," said Manduku.
Movement of bulk cargo however seems to be slow having achieved 20,286 tonnes in eight months. The total bulk moved last year was 41,614 tonnes.
Mombasa bound freight trains were 1,066 to August which is higher compared to 2018 full-year total of 838 trains.
This has seen the tonnes of cargo shipped back to the port city increase to 342,198 tonnes compared to 320,069 tonnes ferried in a whole year in 2018.
Majority of this cargo was however empty containers which totaled 92,611. Loaded containers during the period were a paltry 9,499 reflecting the country's trade imbalance with the world with imports far exceeding exports.
The highest number of trains this year were recorded in July, when the SGR handled 258 trains to Nairobi alone with 165 returning to Mombasa in the month.
This saw a total of 335,696 tonnes of cargo moved to Nairobi during the month, the highest ever. The average number of trains per day stands at nine with 44 wagons.
The high numbers, however, seems to be boosted by the government push to have all Nairobi bound cargo evacuated by rail to the ICD, before being delivered to the final destination, as opposed to road transport.
Importers have accused the government of denying them the freedom to choose their preferred mode of transport.
The mandatory haulage of cargo by SGR is seen to be a strategy to maximise on the returns on investment as the country moves to repay billions borrowed from China for the construction of the rail.
Transporters and Container Freight Stations(CFSs) have lashed at the government, accusing it of kicking them out of business.
“Thousands are currently being sent home as CFSs and transporters layoff employees for lack of business,” Kenya Transporters Association (KTA) chief executive Dennis Ombok told the Star.