Dock Workers Union (DWU) has rejected the State proposal to hand over Mombasa, Lamu and Kisumu ports operations to a Dubai-based terminal operator.
The union, however, supported the privatisation of special economic zones in the three counties but after a rigorous public participation with primary stakeholders.
The agreement, if implemented, will see Dubai Port World (DP world), a leading provider of integrated logistics solutions, take up concession deals that will give it the power to run at least four berths at the port of Mombasa, the three Lamu Port’s completed berths and three special economic zones.
A document dated March 30 addressed to DP World Chairman Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem and signed by National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani, who attended the talks in Nairobi and Abu Dhabi, confirms Kenya nominated DP World to develop and operate various port components in Mombasa, Lamu and Kisumu.
Mr Yatani on Wednesday last week said the government’s move is aimed at enhancing economic operations of the Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) Corridor as well as converting the ports into a hub around the region, brushing off complaints by the Kenya Kwanza alliance that the government was “auctioning” strategic national assets.
The idea to privatise key services at the Port of Mombasa has sparked outrage, with Deputy President William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza alliance calling for its suspension.
Yesterday, DWU weighed in on the matter and threatened to move to court if Yatani does not disclose the arrangements with DP World within seven days.
DWU Secretary General Simon Sang said they want to understand the extent the deal was done by the Treasury.
“Is it about a special economic zone or port? But our stand is we are not happy with DP World taking over the port operations. We are giving the National Treasury seven days to respond to us failure to which we shall meet in court,” said Sang.
He said Dubai operators are not good employers.
“DP World all over the world is not always known for being a good employer in terms of taking care of workers’ interests,” said Sang.
He said they will not allow DP World to be part of the port arrangements unless there is a special arrangement involving the union members.
“We don’t want DP World to have a say because we have seen how they treat workers in other countries,” said Sang.
He said the government’s partnership with DP World for the sake of special economic zones should be determined through a structured task force.
Sang said if the government feels that DP World will be useful in developing special economic zones, they should subject it to public participation and appoint a task force of Kenyans who have the expertise on such investments to look into it.
After signing the concession with Kenya, DP World will undertake the development, operation, management and expansion of transport logistics services in Kenya on various components.
Sang said politicians should stop using the port issues to campaign and politicise matters and instead write to the Cabinet Secretary to have the DP World matter put on hold until after the August 9 General Election.
He said 30 per cent of the port is in Inland Container Depot (ICD) in Nairobi, Naivasha and Kisumu through the 1980s plan to decongest the Port of Mombasa by transferring delivery points for cargo that belongs outside Mombasa.
He said plans are in place to construct the fifth ICD in Malaba, which will again transfer the services currently being handled at ICD in Naivasha closer to the owners.
“The arrangement is meant to decongest the Port of Mombasa. However, it should be understood that 100 per cent of ship operation and related revenue and employment belongs to Mombasa,” said Sang.
He said the revival of Kenya National Shipping Line (KNSL) is urgent and overdue to get the Sh40 billion share of freight business.