Mombasa youth back port deal, blue economy in hope for jobs

One of the World's Largest Motor Carrier Vessel Mv Genuine Ace sails through the Kilindini waters of the Indian Ocean to the port of Mombasa in Mombasa County. [File, Standard]

A youth group has backed a Government deal to transfer operations at the country’s second container terminal to a shipping company.

Mombasa Youth Association president Ali Sudi, who was speaking during a meeting attended by MPs and ward representatives at Sai Beach Resort on Saturday, said the deal would create jobs as part of the blue economy programme.

During the meeting, MYA member Stephen Mure urged the legislators to rally residents behind the plan.

Maritime and Shipping Affairs Principal Secretary Nancy Karigithu said Bandari College had been upgraded to the Bandari Maritime Academy to facilitate the training of young people as seafarers and fishermen.

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“The blue economy is going to employ more people than the port of Mombasa. Coast residents should turn their focus to this area and go to sea,” said Ms Karigithu, adding that this was the region’s economic mainstay.

The Government wants the Kenya National Shipping Line (KNSL) to operate berth numbers 20 and 21 at the port, which comprise the Sh27 billion second container terminal.

Italian firm Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), which is the second largest shipping line at the port, is a minority shareholder in KNSL having bought a stake in the corporation during a restructuring exercise 22 years ago.

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Employment deal

In November last year, President Uhuru Kenyatta handed over certificates to the first batch of 16 youths offered employment on board MSC ships as part of the deal. The MSC is expected to employ 2,000 seafarers annually.

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But the deal has been met with stiff opposition by various stakeholders, who say it will not augur well for operations at the port.

Changamwe MP Omar Mwinyi refuted claims by Dock Workers Union General Secretary Simon Sang that the second container terminal was being privatised, instead insisting that it was being leased to a State-owned agency to boost its operation.

“I am urging leaders and residents of this region to see the bigger picture and support the blue economy programme fully,” Mr Mwinyi said.

But Mr Sang has led a campaign opposing the project on the grounds that there was no public participation and that it will lead to the loss of 4,000 port jobs.

In a statement, Sang argued that the functions of KNSL did not include running of a terminal, adding that the only arrangement was to give the national line dedicated berths for ‘berthing priority’.

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“Any suggestion to give KNSL the mandate to run the second container terminal is misinformed because it lacks the capacity and the legal backing to operate as a terminal operator. This proposal should be reconsidered. In fact, Section 16 of the Merchant Sipping Act disallows shipping companies from operating port terminals,” he said.

The union leader said he had called a meeting for April 20 with the region’s elected leaders to deliberate on the fate of the port.

“It is tricky for KNSL to run a terminal. Such an arrangement is uncommon and if tried, it is unlikely to go through in Parliament or public participation because it would amount to transferring functions of an existing arrangement to a stranger,” he said.

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GovernmentMombasa Youth AssociationAli SudiMaritime and ShippingNancy Karigithu