CONTROVERSY

Amending Merchant Shipping Act plot to privatise port — MPs

MPs to fight plans in Parliament first, then join Muhuri in court if it fails

In Summary

• Muhuri says any major decision affecting Kenyans must be subjected to public participation.

• Dockers say move will cause over 5,000 job losses. 

Coast MPs Teddy Mwambire (Ganze), William Kamoti (Rabai), Omar Mwinyi (Changamwe), Muhuri executive director Hassan Abdille and Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir at Royal Court Hotel in Mombasa on Monday
'SCHEME LIKE SGR': Coast MPs Teddy Mwambire (Ganze), William Kamoti (Rabai), Omar Mwinyi (Changamwe), Muhuri executive director Hassan Abdille and Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir at Royal Court Hotel in Mombasa on Monday
Image: JOHN CHESOLI

Coast MPs and Muslims for Human Rights want the government to withdraw the amendments to section 16 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 2009.

The Act bars shipping lines from operating a seaport.

However, the government, through the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendment) Bill, 2019, seeks to give the Transport CS powers to exempt a government entity or enterprise from adhering to provisions of the Act.

 

If the amendments pass, it is likely to give way for the Kenya National Shipping Line (KNSL) to operate and maintain the Sh27 billion second container terminal (CT2).

The Bill was sponsored by National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale.

Coast MPs and civil societies at the Coast led by Muhuri have opposed the move, saying the public was not consulted. 

Dock Workers Union says the move will lead to over 5,000 job losses.

On Monday, 11 Coast MPs met Muhuri and other CSOs from the Coast for further deliberation.

Last week, the MPs met the DWU and Blue Economy Committee led by retired Chief of Defence Forces Samson Mwathethe over the same.

Mombasa Senator Mohamed Faki said the proposed amendments to the Act are intended to make way for privatisation of CT2.

“Privatisation will not fulfil the aspirations of the Mombasa people and Kenyans at large,” Faki said.

Muhuri executive director Hassan Abdille said any major decision affecting Kenyans must be subjected to public participation.

“There was no public participation in this matter and that is why we feel we have been ambushed,” the executive director said.

Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir and his Ganze counterpart Teddy Mwambire said the Public-Private Partnership Act must be used in case the government wants to privatise the port or any part of it.

“The Act provides for sufficient safeguards that will protect the public in case of such a venture,” Nassir said.

Mwambire said the Mombasa port has been making profits and it does not make sense to privatise it.

“We do not see any reason whatsoever why the CT2 should be privatised. Our people are likely to lose their jobs and further give rise to other problems of insecurity due to unemployment,” the Ganze MP said.

Kaloleni MP Paul Katana said the law cannot be changed to suit a private firm or individual.

“Why would a law be amended so that a private company can be given a whole berth to operate? We cannot amend a law to allow illegality,” Katana said.

The MPs said they will fight the privatisation in Parliament first. Should the Parliament route fail, they will join Muhuri and other CSOs in moving to court.

The government owns 53 per cent of KNSL while the Italian firm Mediterranean Shipping Company, which has been tipped to have been earmarked for the running of CT2 should the government plan succeed, owns 47 per cent of the shares.

The MPs said it is illogical to have a berth built by Kenyan taxpayer’s money and then be handed over to a private firm to operate.

The legislators want any endeavour to have any part of the port privatised be spearheaded by the Transport Committee of the National Assembly.

Coast Civil Society Organisations Network chairman Patrick Ochieng said the plan to privatise CT2 is not different from the SGR plan which has seen taxpayers duped "into a deal that they are now paying dearly for".

“We ask the MPs to help us stop this matter,” Ochieng said.

He said the Port of Durban in South Africa is the most efficient port in Africa and yet it is public-owned, thus there is no justification for the privatisation of the profit-making CT2.

The CT2 has this year alone made Sh10 billion profit, according to the legislators.

(Edited by R.Wamochie)