SECOND CONTAINER TERMINAL

Tycoons cited in container terminal saga

The government is determined to have the KNSL run the CT2.

In Summary

•MPs are not telling us the truth. They are not representing the views of those they represent but those of a few tycoons who are funding them, says Chengo.

•The amendment to the Merchant Shipping Act 2009 as introduced by National Assembly Majority leader Aden Duale would have allowed KNSL to operate and maintain the CT2.

Umoja Summit Party of Kenya chairman Matano Chengo during the interview in Mombasa on Thursday.
Umoja Summit Party of Kenya chairman Matano Chengo during the interview in Mombasa on Thursday.
Image: JOHN CHESOLI

The second container terminal (CT2) privatisation saga has taken a new twist after Umoja Summit Party of Kenya officials alleged that powerful businessmen in Mombasa are behind the push to stop the Kenya National Shipping Line from running the terminal.

USPK secretary general Matano Chengo and chair Naomi Cidi said President Uhuru Kenyatta’s efforts to have the KNSL operate the second container terminal, which cost taxpayers some Sh30 billion, are being frustrated by Mombasa tycoons.

Chengo said the tycoons are eyeing the CT2 and are the ones pushing Coast MPs to fight KNSL.

“The MPs are not telling us the truth. They are not representing the views of those they represent but those of a few tycoons who are funding them,” Chengo said.

He spoke to the Star on Thursday morning. 

His statement came on the same day the government planned to re-introduce amendments to the Merchant Shipping (Amendment) Act 2019.

This is after Coast MPs, led by Mvita’s Abdulswamad Nassir, ensured that MPs two weeks ago defeated a proposed amendment to deny the government an opportunity to revitalise KNSL by allowing it to run CT2.

The government is determined to have the shipping line run CT2.

The amendment to the Merchant Shipping Act 2009 as introduced by National Assembly Majority leader Aden Duale would have allowed KNSL to operate and maintain the CT2.

But amendments introduced by Nassir ensure KNSL can only run the terminal if it is wholly owned by the government.

President Uhuru is concerned this would hamper the revival of the national shipping line and, consequently, opportunities to create employment lost, especially for youth near maritime areas.

In a memorandum to National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, Uhuru directed that the amendment be challenged and proposed to delete the proposed new subsection so that it shall not apply to a shipping line owned or controlled by the government. 

The government through the KPA holds 53 per cent of the shares in KNSL while the other 47 per cent is owned by Mediterranean Shipping Company.

The new proposals were to be introduced in Parliament on Thursday.

USPK official Chengo issued a 14-day ultimatum to Transport CS James Macharia to ensure all private firms that are operating berths at the Mombasa Port are ejected.

Maersk Line, Grain Bulk and Bamburi Cement companies all have berths at the port.

“There are many other companies that are operating from the port and we don’t know how they got these berths. We demand that they all be removed. We have our lawyers ready to take legal action if we do not get satisfactory answers from the CS,” Chengo said. 

He said the law should be applied across the board and not selectively.

“If the law does not allow KNSL to operate CT2, then how come some other companies are operating some other berths?” Chengo, who is a former secretary general of the seafarers, asked. 

Cidi said the move by Coast MPs rendered the recent recruitment of the 200 youth as seafarers in cruise ships illegal. 

“The drive behind this refusal was the interests of Mombasa tycoons and politicians,” said Cidi.

She said: “USPK supports the president’s efforts to revive the Blue Economy and in particular the re-launch of KNSL, that promises to create jobs, training and business opportunities for Coastal youth and women.”

She called on Uhuru to listen to the voice of unemployed youth and struggling women across the country ‘united by a common desire to put at least a meal on their table’.

The Star has learnt that Muslims for Human Rights, a lobby that has been fighting to have the status quo remain, is planning to move to court should the President’s amendment pass.

Muhuri avers that amendments by President Uhuru mean any shipping line, regardless of the percentage shareholding of the government, will run CT2.

“This amounts to privatisation. The monthly Sh10 billion in revenue government gets from the terminal will drastically reduce,” Muhuri said.

A senior officer from the organisation who spoke to the Star said the organisation is worried that a national asset will be run by a private firm should the KNSL be allowed to operate CT2.

“Our biggest concern is that we would be giving out public resources to be managed by a private firm.

“How sure are we the private firm will be mindful of the environment? Look at the sea dredging in Kwale county,” said the officer who is not allowed to speak to the media.

Dredging of the sea in Kwale county by KPA was contracted to private firms and the result was an outcry from residents over environmental pollution.

Muhuri says privatisation started with berth No. 3 where Grain Bulk operates, dry ports in Kisumu, Naivasha and Nairobi, and establishment of CFSs within the port.

Cidi said USPK and the people of Kenya are ready to challenge the MPs in Court should need arise, in support of the president efforts to secure the future of Kenyan youth and women

She said 75 per cent of job opportunities from the blue economy and CT2 be allocated to Coastal youth.