Cargo volumes grow at Mombasa Port in defiance of global inflation

The Spetes Lady oil tanker with 105 cubic meters of oil from Saudi Arabia docks at Mombasa Port. [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

The Port of Mombasa has registered a growth in cargo throughput in the first nine months of this year against high global inflation.

Data from the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) shows that between January and September this year, cargo throughput, container and transit traffic grew by three per cent compared to the same period last year.

The port handled a total of 26.6 million metric tonnes compared to the 25.8 million metric tonnes handled in 2022, representing a moderate increment of 786,073 or three percent.

Despite the growth in business, KPA is however pushing for the concessioning of operations at berths 11 to 14 at Mombasa Port and the first three berths at Lamu Port. The authority says the move will increase efficiency.  

KPA said in a statement that the performance could be attributed to an increase in handling containerised cargo and liquid bulk. Containerised cargo increased by 1.5 million metric tonnes while liquid bulk increased by 156,006 metric tonnes in the period under review.

Overall, imports and exports recorded a growth of 852,683 tonnes or 4.2 percent and 203,391 tons or 5.7 percent respectively.

Container traffic handled at the port was 1.2 million 20-foot equivalent units (Teus) against 1.1 million Teus handled in the same period.

KPA managing director William Ruto noted that the increase in the total cargo handled from January to September this year offered some hope as the authority continues to struggle with global inflation.

He was speaking in Nairobi last weekend. “While we celebrate this positive trajectory, we are cognizant of the fact that globally, competition in the shipping industry is stiff. Ports worldwide are strategically positioning themselves as hub facilities of choice by ensuring that they have ample capacity to effectively handle cargo as well as provide end-to-end services in the global supply chains,” he said.

Captain Ruto noted that shipping lines are also forming consortiums to leverage economies of scale even as shipbuilders continue building bigger and more advanced vessels to haul bigger cargo volumes around the world in a timely and efficient manner.

The ports chief observed that globally the economy has experienced turbulent and volatile challenges in the past few years including pandemics, high inflation, wars and domestic politics which have continued to curtail prospects for an economic recovery. 

“Locally, this has had a ripple effect on the shipping industry as total cargo throughput at our port

Benjamin Tayari, KPA Chairman, said the authority was keen to partner with the private sector by concessioning some port facilities; KPA will act as the landlord.

“We have now put in place strategic measures to improve business delivery by partnering with the private sector through concessioning where KPA can play an oversight role and oversee business activities at the port as the landlord,” he said.

“KPA will continue to exercise its statutory mandate as the operational authority in the port facilities, albeit at a delegated level to improve efficiency. This is a global progressive practice among the best-performing ports.” 

To complement the newly developed infrastructure at Mombasa and Lamu ports, Ruto noted that KPA has procured new equipment to facilitate faster and more efficient cargo handling.

He noted that three new Ship-to-Shore Gantry Cranes (STSs) have replaced the decommissioned ones at Mombasa Port’s berth number 16.

For yard operations, he observed, the authority acquired an additional nine empty container handlers, 12 reach stackers and terminal tractors to keep up with the demand occasioned by rising cargo vo

Ruto noted that five harbour mobile cranes have also been delivered, with three cranes deployed to the Port of Lamu.

“With the first phase of Lamu up and running, the port will receive three ships to shore gantry cranes by the end of the year to make the facility a fully-fledged container terminal,” he said.

He added that the new equipment will double berth productivity and reduce ship working time at the ports. For instance, at berth number 16 alone, Mombasa Port, productivity is projected to improve by nearly 40 per cent.

KPA is liaising with other government agencies like Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (Lapsett), Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) and National Lands Commission (NLC) to fast-track completion of other infrastructure like roads, and roadside stations along the corridor including truck marshalling yards, service centres and resting places.

He said this will bring the corridor to life and support the supply chains in addition to fueling the seamless flow of cargo from the port to the hinterlands.

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