MARGINALISATION

Opponents of Kenya National Shipping Line revival are Coast enemies

KNSL is a state corporation majorly owned by the Kenya Ports Authority in partnership with international investors

In Summary

• Mvita MP Abdulswamad Shariff said giving KNSL control could lead to unfair competition.

•  Such blatant distortion of facts to rally against this important initiative cannot be the basis.

President Uhuru Kenyatta witnesses the signing of an MoU between the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure and the Mediterranean Shipping Company led by Captain Giovanni Cuomo, the First Vice President, for the revival of the Kenya National Shipping Line at State House, Nairobi. Also present is Transport and Infrastructure CS James Macharia
DEAL President Uhuru Kenyatta witnesses the signing of an MoU between the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure and the Mediterranean Shipping Company led by Captain Giovanni Cuomo, the First Vice President, for the revival of the Kenya National Shipping Line at State House, Nairobi. Also present is Transport and Infrastructure CS James Macharia
Image: PSCU:

Efforts to revive the Kenya National Shipping Line and allow it to operate and maintain the Sh30 billion Container Terminal 2 should be supported. Allowing KNSL to operate the terminal would create up to 10,000 jobs over five years, arising from its operation, seafaring jobs as well as other emergent subsectors of the shipping value chain.

Dock Workers Union secretary general Simon Sang recently issued a press release in which he said, amongst other things, that the port of Mombasa is being privatised and that more than 4,000 employees would lose their jobs. Really?

KNSL is a state corporation. It’s majorly owned by the Kenya Ports Authority in partnership with international investors, including the Mediterranean Shipping Company. This has been the case since 1987 when KNSL was established, and 1997 when MSC joined through a competitive process as a strategic partner. How then does this become privatisation, when two state corporations partner to create better value for Kenyans?

 

On the very sensitive matter of jobs, as far as is known, Mombasa port has 21 berths. Container Terminal 2 comprises berths 20 and 21. Sang should tell us how KNSL running Container Terminal 2 would result in over 4,000 out of the approximately 7,000 Kenya Ports Authority employees would lose sources of their livelihoods.

Why is he not supporting this move, aimed at improving the performance of such an important asset to address the high levels of unemployment and poverty at the Coast? 

In the first week of April, National Assembly Majority leader Aden Duale tabled a bill to amend the Merchant Shipping Act to allow a shipping line to operate a terminal. The bill seeks to give the Transport CS powers to exempt a government entity from adhering to provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act, 2009, which bars shipping lines from operating a seaport. If the bill sails through, KNSL will be able to operate and maintain the second container terminal.

As good an idea as the bill is, there is a group of people opposed to the move for no good reason.

Mvita MP Abdulswamad Shariff Nassir, the Public Investments Committee chairman, last week said giving KNSL control could lead to unfair competition and cause the main terminal to collapse. What is the MP talking about? What unfair competition is he alluding to? Far removed from this, globally, at successful ports, terminals compete. Therefore, competition will not only lead to improved performance at the Mombasa port but will lead to reduced cost of doing business.

It is unfortunate to hear Nassir make statements that appear to be against KNSL’s growth, especially because he is a ‘Mpwani’ —born and raised at the Coast — and he should be among the strongest supporters of progress at the Coast.

Why is he not supporting this move, seeing as the Coast has suffered for decades with high levels of unemployment and poverty? 

 
 

Last month, I wrote about how the project turned out to be a disappointment for Coast residents who had placed their hopes in it.  I mentioned how some residents think there is a political strategy of marginalisation at play; a conspiracy to leave the region out so that it will always be at the mercy of politicians who promise to change it to win votes.

These two gentlemen need to be put to task to explain their distortion of facts clearly aimed at derailing the KNSL Revival Initiative. Why is it that when such viable initiatives that can benefit residents are floated, they receive unwarranted opposition? Worst of all, from persons who should know better? What is it they are not telling us?

ENEMIES OF PWANI

Who are these enemies of Pwani? 

It’s time the region’s leadership — elected and civil — rise and demand the revival of KNSL using any means and processes.

If there is support for the proposed takeover of JKIA management by Kenya Airways, which has gone through its fair share of challenges, why is KNSL’s takeover of operations being opposed?

KNSL has undergone a myriad of challenges that nearly brought it to its knees, but it has survived and the government is committed to reviving it.

Sang and Nassir need to understand the basis of the move before jumping into conclusions, which when scratched on the surface, turn out to be blatant misrepresentations. To what end?

If anything, this will create jobs. Why are they opposed to the revival process unless they are acting on behalf of vested interests, enemies of the Coast region, who have denied Wapwani sons and daughters opportunities in the past and present?

Such blatant distortion of facts to rally against this important initiative cannot be the basis for any objective discussion on ways through which revival of KNSL could be improved.

DWU itself has been caught up in leadership tussles with different camps pushing various agenda. There needs to be only one agenda — that of ensuring Coast residents get the best deal and jobs to improve their lives.

Sang has been inciting residents, saying the port is being sold, an assertion he cannot prove because it is untrue. He needs to see the bigger picture and what the Coast stands to benefit from the blue economy.The Blue Economy is the future and Coast cannot afford to be locked out of opportunities in the sector.

To Coast MPs, you need to rise to the occasion and fight for the interests of your electorate. These leaders were voted in by jobless youths, men and women and the least they can do is empower them through the process of getting KNSL to operate the terminal among other ways.

Leaders need to rise and lobby for this cause because it must create wealth for the region.

We don’t need to go to the streets for this; ‘Haki yetu ni haki yetu’ (our rights are our rights) period. 

Naomi Cidi is the interim Secretary General, USPK