Mombasa reaps big after Kenyan waters removed from risky areas

Proteus Jessica docks at Mombasa Port with 100,000 metric tons of Petrol, on May 11, 2023. The fuel is from the United Arab Emirates. [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

Mombasa Port has started reaping big from the International Maritime Organisation (IMO)'s decision to remove Kenya's territorial waters within the Indian Ocean from the list of High-Risk Area (HRA).

On Thursday, maritime experts said the Port of Mombasa would benefit from a drop in freight rates, indemnity premiums and other charges like the provision of security for ships calling at the port.

Mrs Isabellah Nyagaya, a customs agent, said all extra costs were passed to importers and eventually to the end consumers of the imports.

She said majority of shipping lines imposed Piracy Risk Surcharges ranging between Sh17,000 and Sh26,000 and Sh36,000 and Sh51,000 for 20-foot and 40-foot containers respectively.

“These are some of the costs we expect to go following the new development. We also expect more ships to call at the port which will translate to good business for Mombasa,” she said.

She said other than insurance, some vessels used a long voyage around the Cape of Good Hope to access Mombasa, leading to extra costs slapped on importers.

The Kenya waters were designated high-risk area in 2009 following increased incidents of piracy in the Indian Ocean, including Kenya's maritime waters.

But the country successfully lobbied to have the status lifted, which has seen naval ships from major global superpowers call the port.

A section of Mombasa Port Terminal 2. [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

Increased surveillance and joint maritime patrols by the Kenya Coast Guard Services and the Kenya Navy within the Kenyan maritime waters have also resulted in a significant reduction in piracy incidents.

No piracy incidents have been recorded since 2017.

Kenya was prompt in lauding the BMP-5 for their decision and cooperation during the intense engagements, which resulted in the re-designation of Kenya's maritime waters to reflect improved security.

The first of that ship to call is a French navy warship, Floreal whose home port is Re-Union, an overseas territory belonging to France in the Indian Ocean.

Floreal, which is a surveillance frigate with a helicopter, was a regular caller at the port and is the first French naval asset to call at the Port of Mombasa since 2019.

French ambassador to Kenya, Arnaud Suquet, and the vessel's commanding officer, Captain Marco Aurili said the warship was tasked with monitoring and supervising maritime traffic in the Mozambique channel.

He said its arrivals signalled the continued cooperation between the two friendly states of Kenya and France in maritime issues including knowledge sharing involving navies from the two countries.

''This is yet another special day that stamps our cordial relations. The docking of this ship with its sailors has been long overdue. It has been a four-year wait since the French Navy come calling at the Port of Mombasa. It definitely will lead to a re-start of maritime naval operational partnerships,'' the envoy who was flanked by the French Honorary consul in Mombasa, Mohamed Ramazani, said.

Captain Aurili described the sea journey and welcome reception at the Port of Mombasa as welcoming.

''We are looking forward to a full five days of relaxation and enjoying your country's beautiful wildlife sceneries. I shall together with my men and women be visiting the scenic Tsavo National Park to see wildlife in their natural habitat,'' Aurili said.

Cargo ship Linea Nessina docks at the Port of Mombasa in March 2023. [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

Shipping activities at the Port of Mombasa have continued to increase after the re-designation from the High-Risk Area by the global shipping industry which will save Kenya and East Africa millions of dollars in insurance and security expenses.

A seafarer official in Mombasa, Steve Owaki commended the decision adding it truly freed Kenya from what had become a major restriction to the shipping industry, it also frees the rest of East Africa and drastically lowers the costs of supplies from all over the world.

''It is important that the country continues to stay alert from any possible threats from the sea that will heavily impact Kenya's economy y which to a larger extent relies on sea bourne trade to flourish,'' Mr Owaki said.

Kenya remains aware of security challenges in the Horn of Africa region and the Gulf of Aden and will remain vigilant and continue working with other security players in the region such as EUNAVFOR Atlanta, to prevent re-emergence of piracy within the region.

Significantly, Kenya will be involved in the next steps to develop a more dynamic threat assessment process to benefit the Shipping industry globally.

Regional countries such as Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and South Sudan which depend on the port of Mombasa for both their exports and imports will also benefit from the reduction of maritime insurance, thereby resulting in increased competitiveness of their products.

Ambassador Nancy Karigithu, the now Presidential Advisor on Blue Economy and a top contender for the post of Secretary-General for the IMO served as the Principal Secretary, State Department for Shipping and Maritime Affairs and Ambassador. Manoah Esipisu, High Commissioner to the UK and Permanent Representative to the IMO, led Kenya's negotiating team over the past 18 months, with strategic guidance from the National Development Implementation and Communication Committee.