Naivasha dry port will spur growth, not kill business in Mombasa

One of the issues raised by National Super Alliance (NASA) flag bearer Raila Odinga is whether the setting-up of the Naivasha dry port will kill the Mombasa Port and the county’s economy. Raila, while speaking at a campaign rally in Kwale County, was emphatic that the proposed Naivasha dry port will result in the death of the port of Mombasa since, through the Standard Gauge Railway, all the containers will be transported to Naivasha using the railway.

His sentiments were echoed by Mombasa Governor  Hassan Joho who has repeatedly stated that many people will be left jobless in Mombasa as major services like clearing and forwarding will be done in Naivasha at the expense of the coastal people. The question that arises is: What is a dry port? A dry port, which is sometimes called inland port, is an inland inter-modal terminal directly connected by road or rail to a seaport and operating as a centre for the transhipment of sea cargo to inland destinations.

Cargo flow

In short, a dry inland port speeds up the flow of cargo between ships and major land transportation networks, creating a more central distribution point. Further, inland ports improve the movement of imports and exports, moving the time-consuming sorting and processing of containers inland, away from congested seaports. The Mombasa Port activities are not being transferred to Naivasha since the region does not border the Indian Ocean.

Just like the Embakasi dry port, the Naivasha facility will provide storage of cargo especially those destined for Uganda, South Sudan, Northern Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo. This will relieve the Mombasa Port of congestion, create more space for handling more cargo, and improve efficiency, which would attract more trade, including transhipment business at the Mombasa Port.

The Standard Gauge Railway once completed will handle more than 20 per cent of the cargo coming through the Mombasa Port, as part of this will be taken to Naivasha for storage and help reduce congestion at the Mombasa Port. The Naivasha dry port is the fourth to be established in Kenya. Already, there is Eldoret Inland Port; Inland Container Depot in Embakasi (ICDE) which is linked by rail to Port Mombasa and the Inland Container Depot in Kisumu which links Lake Victoria with Mombasa Port by rail.

The depots located in Nairobi, Kisumu and Eldoret have transit sheds and stacking grounds equipped with various types of cargo handling equipment like forklift trucks, front loaders, tractors, trailers, reach stackers and cranes. They were established to realize maximum benefits of containerisation of cargo, which is the current trend, and to avoid over-investment in port facilities and storage capacity. The ICDs serve as “Dry Ports” linked directly to Mombasa Container Terminal by a special regular “Railtainer” service. Indeed, statistics from Kenya Ports Authority show that 76.7 per cent of all transit cargo through Mombasa is destined to Uganda, 10.6 per cent to South Sudan and 5.7 per cent to DR Congo. There is therefore a need for Mombasa Port to increase its efficiency and cargo handling turnaround time in order to attract other transport corridors in Africa that do not traditionally use the facility.

With the civil unrest in South Sudan and recent courting of Uganda by the Dar es Salaam port, it is prudent that Mombasa port adopts a greater strategic approach that would give it an edge over its peers. A dry port in Naivasha will thus increase productivity at Mombasa Port because larger container ships would dock without fear of prevalent demurrage charges accruing due to port inefficiency. Traffic congestion, road accidents, and road maintenance costs on both our national trunk roads and highways would decrease drastically because one train has capacity to substitute 35 trucks. 

It is also imperative to note that the Nakuru County government plans to establish an industrial park within the geothermal-rich area of Olkaria where the dry port will be set up. This is a noble initiative that will create jobs. The Opposition has a right to challenge the Government’s development record, but it should do so basing its arguments on watertight evidence.

Mr Kigochi, a politician, comments on topical issues