The story of Mombasa Port — like most other State utilities — is one of waste, inefficiencies and runaway sleaze. Due to its location, strategically placed midway between South Africa and the gulf of Eden, the Port has experienced tremendous traffic through the years.
The port serves as gateway to East and Central Africa, and is one of the busiest ports on the East African coastline.
It provides direct connectivity to over 80 ports worldwide and is linked to a vast hinterland comprising Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Northern Tanzania, Southern Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia by road. But now it is losing its edge to the port of Dar es Salam.
The inefficiencies at container freight stations and system failures at the port have been blamed for increasing the cost of doing business by Sh1.64 billion last year.
Recurrent downtimes – up to four hours daily – of the Kilindini Waterfront Automated Terminal Operating System and Cargo Management Information System used by the Kenya Port Authority and the Kenya Revenue Authority SIMBA system have hugely contributed to delays in releasing containers from the port.
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Due to delays, costs encountered in the clearance of cargo from the port are insome cases as high as 30 per cent of the total transport costs from productorigin to destination.
There have also been concerns that Container Freight Stations (CFSs) deliberately delay cargo to attract higher charges. This is forcing countries using the port to rethink their options. The recent announcement by the Chinese president while on a tour of Tanzania that China will be funding construction of a Sh935 billion port in Bagamoyo should be unsettling to Government.
News that President Uhuru has issued directives to clean the mess at the port istherefore hugely welcome and one that should be supported by all stakeholders. The inefficiencies at the port partly as a result of poor management but also because of vested interests. Out of the inefficiencies, some unscrupulous entities have minted billions of money. It is time cracked hard on these crooks.