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Union in court over port terminal privatisation

By Joackim Bwana | July 16th 2019
Dock Workers Union Secretary General Simon Sang address the press at their Makuli Fagia headquarters in Mombasa. [File, Standard]

A dock workers' union and two other organisations have filed a petition to stop the transfer of Mombasa Port's second container terminal to the Kenya National Shipping Line (KNSL).

The Government wants KNSL, which is partly owned by the Swiss registered Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) and the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), to jointly run the Sh30 billion terminal.  

Yesterday, the Dock Workers Union (DWU), Taireni Association of Mijikenda and Muslims for Human Rights (Muhuri) filed a case to challenge the move to privatise the terminal.

They want the High Court  to issue conservatory orders stopping the implementation of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the Ministry of Transport and Mediterranean Shipping Company.

In a suit filed before Justice PJ Otieno, DWU Secretary General Simon Sang said the Government secretly negotiated the MOU with a foreign private company (MSC) over operations and management of the port terminal.

Foreign company

“The effect is that the said operations shall thus be privatised and operated by the said foreign company,” said Sang.

The petitioners want the High Court to forward the petition to Chief Justice David Maraga so that he can create a panel of judges to hear the suit.

The petitioners have indicated the Attorney General, Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure Kenya Ports Authority, Mediterranean Shipping Company and Kenya Seafarers Welfare Association as the respondents.

Sang (pictured) said that by privatising the terminal, residents of Mombasa stand to suffer job losses.

“There is an eminent danger of job losses as a result of the intended take over," Sang said.

"The petitioners and their members stand to have their source of livelihood threatened.”

He noted that the Government has failed to adhere to the constitutional principles of transparency, openness and public involvement while making the deal.

Cocaine scandal

“It is in the interest of justice that this court intervenes at this juncture to arrest this illegality and violation of the Constitution and fundamental freedoms and rights of the people of Mombasa,” said Sang.

Sang said MSC is currently involved in a cocaine scandal, after one of its ships was seized ferrying a cocaine consignment, and therefore the Government should not deal with such a tainted entity.

“The seizure of over 1,185 pounds of cocaine on the container ship MSC Desiree in Philadelphia in March led to the temporary suspension of the Mediterranean Shipping Company’s certificate under the voluntary Customs-Trade Partnership against Terrorism programme, a programme designed to give ships quicker border clearances,” said Sang.

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