Dock workers claim that leasing a section of the port will lead to loss of 4,000 jobs

Dock workers union led by their Secretary General , Simon Sang[centre] join hands in solidarity after press conference at Dock workers union office in Mombasa. [Omondi Onyango/Standard]

Two rival groups have lined up separate meetings today to discuss the Government’s plan to lease a section of Mombasa Port to State-owned Kenya National Shipping Line (KNSL).

As top Government officials brief Coast elected leaders on the deal at Nyali Beach Hotel, a section of the Dock Workers Union (DWU) opposed to the move will be at the Mombasa Women Hall.

DWU secretary general Simon Sang claims the move would lead to loss of 4,000 jobs at the port and it was not subjected to public participation.

Maritime and Shipping Affairs Principal Secretary Nancy Karigithu and technical advisor to the presidential task force on blue economy Stanley Chai are among Government officials expected to brief the politicians. The task force is chaired by Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces General Samson Mwathethe.

Was not consulted

Sources in both groups confirmed yesterday they were set for the meetings which are part of the lobbying for and against the plan.

“Elected leaders from the Coast region will attend the meeting where they will be briefed on the benefits of the lease of berth number 20 and 21 of the second container terminal. Those opposed to the arrangement are self-seekers,” said the Government source.

In the present status of KNSL, Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) owns 53 per cent stake, Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) through Heywood 33 per cent while German firms Unimar and DEG have seven per cent each.

In the deal, MSC is expected to employ about 2,000 seafarers to a high of about 52,000 in 10 years or 200,000 seafarers in 15 years and assist transform the port into a transshipment centre for the region.

Mr Sang however maintained they have valid reasons to raise concerns over the manner the deal was being cut by Government saying it was a ploy to sneak privatisation through the backdoor. He claimed the union was not consulted.

He said the meeting has received the support of four Coast legislators who were equally questioning the plan to hand over the Sh27 billion terminal to a shipping line. He named Kisauni MP Ali Mbogo, Paul Katana (Kaloleni), Ali Wario (Bura) and Abdulswamad Nassir of Mvita as the politicians backing him.

The union chairman Mohamed Sheria is leading another team of dockers’ officials working with Government and discounting the claim that the state was “selling” the port.

Sang insisted that section 16 of the Merchant Shipping Act disallows shipping lines from operating a terminal and that the current plan would not work unless the law was amended in Parliament.

In the deal, Government wants KNSL where Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) has majority shareholding to run berth numbers 20 and 21 of the port which comprises the second container terminal.

MSC the second largest line at the port is a minority shareholder in KNSL having bought a stake in the corporation during a restructuring exercise 22 years ago.

Maersk Line, the biggest shipping line at the port, was handed preferential rights by KPA last year to the same berths 20 and 21 leading to the storm as KNSL is set to displace it. 

Maritime experts argue that Maersk Line was earlier to market a shipping company to cargo owners around the world once it has dedicated berths where its ships could not be kept waiting.

Ministry of Transport experts explained that Kenyans will reap a lot from the KNSL deal since it will pay agreed fees to KPA to assist in repaying a loan for constructing the terminal as well as reap profit from the business.

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