Cargo volumes at Mombasa port remain despite global trade challenges

January–February throughput hit 5.9 million metric tonnes.

In Summary

•A total of 120 vessels called at the Port between March 5 and April 1, mainly container and bulk carriers.

•Container volumes increased to 238,169 TEUs compared to 226,413 TEUs achieved same period last year.

Ships docked at the port of Mombasa /FILE
Ships docked at the port of Mombasa /FILE

Port operations at Mombasa remain steady despite a small variance on the weekly arrival of vessels, occasioned by a slow down in the global supply chain over Coronavirus.

Manufacturing and international trade, cargo volumes remain high compared to last year, Kenya Ports Authority(KPA) data shows, where most of its 2020-quarter one targets have been surpassed.

JanuaryFebruary throughput hit 5.9 million metric tonnes higher than the 5.7 million metric tonnes target the authority had set for the period.


This is 7.2 per cent more than 5.5 million metric tonnes handled in a similar period last year.

Imports were 4.8 million tonnes while exports clocked 727,000 tonnes, higher than 4.4 million and 706,000 tonnes handled in a similar period last year.

Of this, 3.8 million tonnes were destined for the Kenyan market with 1.7 million tonnes heading to the hinterland, mainly Uganda.

Trans-shipment cargo however dropped to 330,000 compared to 410,000 last year.

Container volumes increased to 238,169 TEUs(twenty-foot equivalent unit) compared to 226,413 TEUs achieved the same period last year, despite trade between Kenya and China (biggest import source) slowing down.

A total of 120 vessels called at the Port between March 5 and April 1, mainly container and bulk carriers.

We have not been that much affected. I can say port operations have been steady,” KPA head of corporate affairs Bernard Osero told the Star yesterday.


He, however, said there is a slight week-on-week vessel arrival variance with a few blank sailings, where vessels have not called.

A blank sailing means a vessel is skipping one port, or that the entire string is canceled. A string is a set of ports served weekly by a carrier.

The blanks saw KPA miss its overall January–February target of 242,797 by 4,628 containers despite beating last year's achievement.

Weekly vessel arrivals have ranged between 28 and 31 in the past four weeks.

“Most vessels scheduled to call at the port came, save for a slight slowdown on titanium carrying vessels most which are from China,” Osero said.

Uganda was the biggest transit market accounting for 1.38 metric tonnes followed by South Sudan (165,000 tonnes). DR Congo cargo (119,000 tonnes), Tanzania(52,000 tonnes) and Rwanda(40,000 tonnes).

A total of 139 Standard Gauge Railways trains were achieved between March 5 and April 1, moving 14,400 containers of imports to the Inland Container Deport-Nairobi(ICDN). Exports moved during the period were 1,369 TEUs.

There is a slight improvement to six trains in 24 hours,” ICDN manager Peter Masinde told the Star.

This year's number of trains, however, remains low compared to an average 16 daily trains operated last year by Africa Star Railway Operation Company (Afristar), the contracted operator of both the Madaraka Express and SGR freight service.

The ongoing dusk to dawn curfew and strict border controls in the fight against Covid–19 have slowed down cargo evacuation at the port.

“Drivers are taking much longer to deliver cargo and return empty containers to the ports, Long Distance Truck Drivers Association chairman Nicholas Mbugua told the Star.

Last week, the Shippers Council of Eastern Africa (SCEA) called for an extension of the free port storage period, from four days to 10 days, to ease the rush to pick containers before the curfew time which has led to crowding at the Ports.

“To support the reduction and crowding at the ICDN, sending of containers for 100 per cent verification and partial verification should be stopped especially for known customers with history of compliance,”chief executive Gilbert Langat said.

KPA targets a new record of 35.9 million tonnes this year up from 34 million tonnes handled last year. Container target is 1.49 million TEUs after setting a new record of 1.42 million last year. 2018 throughput was 1.3 million TEUs.

The authority has put in place a raft of measures to curb the spread of coronavirus, which includes vessels monitoring, inspection and basic prevention measures on daily port operations.