PUBLISHED ON April 13th, 2023

Mombasa risks losing to neighbouring ports as players lax on Charter

In Summary

  • The countries are investing heavily in expanding and rehabilitating existing ports as they roll out newer facilities.
  • The Mombasa Port and Northern Corridor Charter is aimed at ensuring Kenya remains a leading gateway to the region.

Mombasa could lose out to neighbouring facilities if stakeholders fail on key performance indicators, mainly under the Mombasa Port Charter, its leadership has warned.

While some signatories, mainly state agencies, have lived up to the set targets, a number of entities both public and private sector have slowed down on key implementations which could affect efficiency, the Mombasa Port and Northern Corridor Charter steering committee now says.

The charter was signed in July 2014, during former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s tenure, where a total of 13 public entities committed to improve movement of cargo from the port into the hinterland.

The second edition of the Mombasa Port and Northern Corridor Community Charter 2019 (the Charter), proclaims the desire of the Port and Northern Corridor community to realise the full trade facilitation potential of the port and Northern Corridor.

It is the culmination of extensive consultations with private and public sector stakeholders, including government agencies, the business community, civil society organisations and special interest groups, on the upgrading and improvement of logistics services.

The Steering Committee for the Charter – comprising the Shippers Council of Eastern Africa (SCEA), the Kenya Maritime Authority, tKenya Ports Authority, Kenya Revenue Authority, Kenya Trade Network Agency, TradeMark East Africa, Kenya Ship Agents Association and the Northern Corridor Transit and Transport Coordination Authority (NCTTCA) – form the core team responsible for coordinating the execution of Charter objectives.

However, all stakeholders are obliged to pursue and encourage realisation of the Northern Corridor’s full trade facilitation potential, as intended by the Charter.

“Currently, most agencies seems to have forgotten and or careless about their commitments despite their earlier interests and which resulted in many signatories. Going forward we may perhaps need to revise downwards the number of agencies and have only committed members – and also renew our vows,” the steering committee chairperson and SCEA chief executive Gilbert Lang’at said.

Before the charter, all agencies worked as silos with blames conferred to KPA.

According to the committee, the Charter is still held in high repute although most stakeholders and individuals have had to moderate their expectations, which “were very high.”

Interests on the port charter model has however gained currency in West Africa, Somaliland, Tanzania among others.

“God forbid that in the near future, we shall be going to benchmark with people who have just but copied us,” Lang’at said.

The Charter has been revised to make the KPIs smarter and which was deduced earlier as a major constraints.

“The other key objectives of interest had been described as being not smart. Consequently, we have no excuse not to deliver on our commitments,” he said.

Going forward the Steering Committee will be reporting to the respective Ministries on a quarterly basis on the performances.

The report will be shared to the Presidency, respective Ministries and the Office of Prime Cabinet Secretary.

When the Port Charter was first developed, the port through put was less than 30milion matrix tonnes. Today, it is at over 37 million matrix tonnes.

The number of waiters (ships waiting to dock) has reduced to none from a high of more than seven, while port dwell time- the amount of time that vessels spend in port actively loading or unloading cargo, has gone down to less than four days from over 14 days.

Issues of verification have been addressed with less than 10 per cent of containers verified at the Inland Container Depots.

Cargo being cleared under the free period has also increased to 80 per cent.

“On the flipside we are now faced with systems down time, delayed railage and delays after release. Changes in the logistics environment such as DI and recordation, What this means is that we must continuously remain alert and vigilant and monitor the environmental changes,”said Lang’at.

Through the port Charter, Kenya is keen to be able to handle over 43 million tonnes by 2030.

Some of the signatories that have remained fully committed include the Northern Corridor Secretariat, KEBs and KRA.

Mombasa’s immediate competition is neighbouring Dar es Salaam Port which serves the region through the Central Corridor.

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, with an exit and entry point at the Port of Mombasa.

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.

Apart from Dar es Salaam, Mombasa, which is the largest and busiest in the region, is also facing tough competition from ports at Berbera in Somaliland and Maputo in Mozambique, as the battle for trade along East Africa’s “Swahili Coast” heats up.

The countries are investing heavily in expanding and rehabilitating existing ports as they roll out newer facilities in a race to become the most preferred trade gateways in East Africa.

Mombasa on the other hand is experiencing lower investor activity as delays, congestion and poor management impact operations, according to GBS Africa, a UK-based consultancy firm, in its Africa Ports Report 2022.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of TradeMark Africa.