Shippers, traders say changes at Mombasa Port are welcome

A view of modern cranes at the Mombasa Ports. [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

Shipping lines, traders dealing in import and export of goods and other players in the shipping industry have expressed optimism in the new changes mooted by the government at the port.

The industry players hope that the changes will improve services at the port.

They particularly noted that the appointment of a substantive CEO at Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) after more than three years was most welcome as the new holder will be able to fully take charge.

They said the appointment of former Kinango MP Benjamin Tayari as Chairman of the KPA board was welcome because he was a professional in the freight logistics sector and hence understands port operations.

Mr Tayari replaces General (rtd) Joseph Kibwana who had served two full terms of three years each at the port.

The recruitment of the new managing director is in progress after the process of applying ended last week and vetting started last Monday.

Kenya Ship Agents Association (KSAA) CEO Juma Tellah said shipping lines are interested in performance.

"We want good performance at the port. Whoever takes over must be a performer," he said.

Roy Mwanthi, national chairman of the Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association (Kifwa), observed that Tayari was conversant with port operations having trained as a clearing and forwarding agent at Bandari College and practiced for many years.

"We also expect government to appoint the next KPA managing director from the private sector especially shipping or clearing and transport logistics industry," Mwanthi said.

He added that they expect Tayari to consult regularly with stakeholders. "We also expect the new chairman to dismantle cartels that have captured port business," he said.

A long- serving freight logistics service provider at the port Nassib Mbarak said they are expecting government to bring in a professional managing director and end the trend of acting MDs.

The work of the chairman and the next managing director is clearly cut out as KPA participates in mega government projects.

The government is fast tracking the implementation of the over Sh40 billion phase one of the Dongo Kundu Special Economic Zone (SEZ) adjacent TO the port of Mombasa which involves KPA and other state agencies.

KPA recently advertised a tender for construction of a berth at the port to facilitate investments at the SEZ that are expected to start July this year in a revised government plan that is meant to be ready by 2025.

According to Trade and industry Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria, government will immediately advertise for investment opportunities at Dongo Kundu.

KPA completed the construction of a Sh40 billion modern oil terminal and a Sh62 billion second container terminal as part of the expansion of the port of Mombasa. The corporation has also began the acquisition of equipment for Lamu Port with the arrival of a Sh1.4 billion tug boat recently.

Tayari has been appointed to serve for period of three years at the KPA board. The appointment was contained in a Kenya gazette notice dated January 12, 2023.

In the notice, Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen revoked the appointment of General Kibwana who had been appointed KPA chairman for a second term.

Kibwana was removed from KPA at a time when the board was in the process of recruiting a managing director to replace acting managing director John Mwangemi.

Mr Mwangemi who was appointed on an acting capacity by retired President Uhuru Kenyatta will exit the port in the next two months. Mwangemi took over from Rashid Salim who retired after acting as managing director for about two years.

KPA has not had a substantive managing director since the removal of Daniel Manduku about three years ago.