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?Changes at KPA welcome, but new bosses must deliver

By Mbatau wa Ngai | Published Tue, March 13th 2018 at 09:31, Updated March 13th 2018 at 09:37 GMT +3
Kenya Ports Authority's container terminal

The recent shake-up at the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) is welcome, provided it improves service delivery and eases operations. There is hope that the new bosses will get what they need to do their work as expected.

The new team would be advised to work knowing that the State retains the right to the source for personnel globally in the event they fail to deliver.

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The expectation is that the port’s management will move quickly to meet the challenges facing cargo owners such as high charges and bureaucracy.

In instances where State agencies such as Kenya Bureau of Standards and Kenya Revenue Authority, undermine the operations at the port, KPA should blow the whistle in time.

Failure to do so would leave management holding the bag for other agencies’ shortcomings.

The good news is that KPA is alive to these challenges as manifested by its decision to reduce its cargo handling charges by as much as 23.5 per cent for cargo destined for the local market and by almost a third for goods being re-exported to the region.

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Export goods

This is expected to boost the volume of cargo passing through the port at a time when Tanzanian ports have heightened competition for import and export goods to and from the region.

The Dar government is so serious about eating Kenyans’ lunch that it is not only modernising Tanga and Dar-es-Salaam ports but has also reduced charges on cargo imported and exported through its facilities.

It has also reduced charges levied for use of its roads. To maintain its advantage, the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) management is also offering discounted freight charges for all cargo.

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What is regrettable, however, is that Kenya has forced shipping agents to use SGR services considering the benefits derived from making its full use. Use of SGR gives Kenya the cash it needs to repay the loans used to build the line. To do otherwise is to guarantee that Kenyans dig deeper into their pockets to service loans when they become due.

This strengthens the narrative peddled by critics that Kenya should have lagged behind in modernising its rail transport.

These critics are either led or are part of the traditional development partners who are loath seeing their pre-eminent position undermined by Chinese’ chequebook diplomacy without pre-conditions. Increased use of SGR to move freight will reduce pressure on the Mombasa-Nairobi highway, hence less damage.

The cash for maintenance can fund other projects. Reduced movement of freight will reduce accidents.