Uhuru hits out at Coast leaders opposed to revival of national shipping line

President Uhuru Kenyatta issues employment contract documents to Seafarers at Mombasa's Bandari Maritime Academy in Mombasa County on Monday July 8,2019. This was during the commissioning of the Academy. [Maarufu Mohamed,Standard]

President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday took exception to opposition on revival of the Kenya National Shipping Line (KNSL).

The President said he would not entertain criticism aimed at curtailing his plan to revamp the line and development of the blue economy.

“I have heard a lot of propaganda about the revival of the KNSL and the maritime reforms, but I have no time for it. The dream is to rebuild our rich seafaring tradition in fisheries and shipping, and expand our economy,” he said, as he commissioned the Kenya Maritime Academy in Mombasa.

Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir and Dock Workers Union General Secretary Simon Sang have been critics of the plan to handover the second Container Terminal to KNSL, which is partly owned by a Swiss registered Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC).

The critics claim the move was aimed at privatisation of the terminal, alleging “it will lead to loss of an estimated 4,000 jobs at the port of Mombasa.”

But yesterday Uhuru allayed the fears, and said the deal would in fact lead to job creation, adding that 62 seafarers had already secured jobs with MSC. “I am very pleased to note that 40 seafarers have been assigned a ship by the MSC,” he said yesterday as he flagged them off to ships.

The President got rare support from Mombasa Governor Hassan Ali Joho, who backed the revival plan arguing that time for confrontational politics was long gone.

Joho urged the Blue Economy implementation committee chairman Samson Mwathethe to bring the six coastal counties together to contribute funds for training youth for maritime jobs.

“The Coast counties can come together and contribute about Sh5 million each towards training of our youth,” he said.

Some Coast MPs, including Abdulswamad, in whose constituency the function was held, did not attend. The MP led several other Coast leaders in opposing the planned joint running of the Sh27 billion port terminal by KNSL and MSC, demanding that the facility be run by a 100 per cent Government-owned entity.

Also absent was unionist Sang, who has also opposed the initiative for fear of job losses.

“I avoided attending the meeting because it would have been disrespectful for me to tell the President to his face that we are not happy with privatisation. I would not have any message for the day,” Sang said. “It is better I only write to him.”