Importers trim use of Mombasa port as Kenyan polls approach

This is on elections jitters ahead of Kenya's August polls.

In Summary

•In the last one month, Dar es Salaam has seen a spike on imports and exports, leading to a congestion at the port.

•The congestion at Dar however comes as a blessing for Mombasa which is enjoying good transshipment business.

Containers at the Port of Mombasa's Second Container Terminal/
Containers at the Port of Mombasa's Second Container Terminal/

Traders in landlocked East African countries are slowing down on the use of the Mombasa port as the August elections approach, latest trends show.

In the last one month, Dar es Salaam port has seen a spike on imports and exports, leading to a congestion at the port.

Traders in the region are using Dar es Salaam more as Kenya campaigns in Kenya heat up ahead of the elections.

Previous elections have been marred by protests disrupting cargo movement from Mombasa to the hinterland.

The EAC region is served by two major corridors with the main one being the 1,700 kilometre long Northern Corridor that runs between Kenya, Uganda Rwanda, Burundi and Eastern D.R. Congo.

The 1,300 kilometre long Central Corridor serves Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Eastern D.R. Congo, with an exit and entry point at the port of Dar-es-Salaam.

The two corridors facilitate export and import activities within the EAC region with a combination of rail, road and lake transportation networks.

During the 2007-2008 post-election violence, the cargo transport sub-sector  lost about Sh5.3 billion monthly according to the Kenya Transporters Association, mainly from hijacking and looting of trucks by criminal gangs.

Latest Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) data indicates volumes at Mombasa have slightly reduced by about three per cent.

This is however also attributable to reduced international trade occasioned by the recent lock-down in China, which introduced  measures in its two biggest cities, Beijing and Shanghai to tame the Covid-19 resurgence.

The Shippers Council of Eastern Africa (SCEA) yesterday noted Dar es Salaam has recorded increased shipping activities compared to Mombasa, whose cargo volumes have slightly reduced by about 4 per cent.

“Dar es Salaam is congested despite the low number vessels coming into the region, meaning there is a lot of trade going on along the Central Corridor. One of the reasons is likely to be that traders are using the alternative route to import and export,” chief executive Gilbert Langat told the Star.

“We have seen a drop in volumes for Mombasa in the last few months,” he added.

SCEA is however in the process of conducting a survey to determine the exact cause on the increased activities at Dar.

The Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association ( KIFWA), an affiliate of the Federation of East African Freight Forwarders Associations (FEAFFA) yesterday noted there has been increased export of minerals from DR Congo through Dar.

DRC has in the past accounted for 7.2 per cent of transit volumes through the Port of Mombasa.

Any disruption along the Northern Corridor also poses a challenge to Mombasa port which has in recent years lost Burundi- bound transit volumes to to Dar es Salaam, with annual volumes dropping to below 2,000 tonnes.

Uganda which accounts for 83.2 per cent of transit cargo through the port of Mombasa also has an alternative of using Dar.

South Sudan takes up 9.9 per cent of transit volumes through Mombasa while Rwanda accounts for 2.4 per cent.

The election jitters’ impact is however yet to be fully felt compared to previous years, KIFWA national chairman Roy Mwanthi said, hoping this year’s elections will be peaceful and allow continuity on local and regional trade.

In January, the shippers council had warned that Kenya’s Port of Mombasa could lose to the Dar es Salaam if the pre and post-August election period is not well managed.

It called for the securing of the corridor by both the national and county governments to ensure smooth flow of transit cargo, with hotspots being mapped out for enhanced security.

Some of the hotspots identified by transporters include Naivasha, Nakuru, parts of Uasin Gishu among them Burnt Forest, Maili Saba, Webuye and Malaba.

“The government must secure the corridor and give the business community confidence that their goods are safe, and in deed the flow of cargo remains smooth even if we are in an election,” Langat said.

The congestion at Dar however comes as a blessing for Mombasa which is enjoying good transshipment business.

This is the unloading of goods from one ship and its loading into another to complete a journey to a further destination, where cargo may remain ashore for some time before onward journey.

“The Port of Mombasa is experiencing substantive transshipment business as more ships evade berthing delays and waiting at the neighbouring port of Dar es Salaam,” KPA said a fortnight ago.

As of last week, there were about 4,000 containers destined for Tanzania, having been dropped by vessels that could not berth in the neighbouring country over the delays.

Dar has an average of 20 waiters waiting to berth in the past one month.

Mombasa has handled over 10 feeder ships in the last one month trans-shipping port of Dar es Salaam containers.

There has been growth in transshipment volumes by an average of 2.5 per cent in the last one month, KPA general manager operations, Sudi Mwasinago, notes

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