6 July 2012

Kenya: Nation Eases Congestion At the Mombasa Port

KENYA Ports Authority (KPA) has managed to reduce congestions at the Mombasa-based post following the reforms which have been carried out at the port over the past six months.

KPA said the container yard population at the port has eased to a record 13,600 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), down from 20, 700 TEUs experienced during the infamous congestion period early 2012. "This new position is way below the Terminal Capacity of 18,500 TEUs and has been attributed to mainly enhanced efficiency in the container operations," KPA's Head of Container Operations, Sudi Mwasinago said on Wednesday.

Mwasinago said the container terminal worked a total of 48 ships in May compared to 56 over the same period in 2011, representing an average arrival of 2 vessels per day. He noted that the reduction in number of vessels while at the same time the volumes of cargo have grown. He attributed the reduction to vessels which have grown in size carrying more volumes, especially after the completion of dredging of the channel. "This also explains the effective time utilization by larger vessels while alongside as compared to smaller vessels," Mwasinago said in a statement released in the port city.

Early this year, the port has faced a cargo congestion blamed on the delays resulting from a work slowdown during the festive period in December 2011. The port had 12,000 containers waiting collection by March from various importers, forcing the government to issue an ultimatum to the cargo clearing and forwarding companies to ensure that incoming cargo is cleared within two days or face punitive measures.

The congestion problems forced some countries like Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and DR Congo to shift some of their imports and exports to the Port of Dar as Salaam in Tanzania, making Kenya lose revenue. The congestion mostly affected exporters of tea, one of the Kenya's top foreign exchange earners, according to the East African Tea Trade Association chairman Peter Kimanga.

Ships have also been forced to stay longer in the high seas to wait for free berths that they can dock for loading or offloading, incurring additional delay costs to the ship owners. Total container traffic was 76,128 TEUs in May compared to 67, 212 TEUs over the same period in 2011 representing an increase of 13 percent. The highest increase was 50 percent witnessed in April this year with 80,274 TEUs compared to 53,463 TEUs in April 2011.

Mwasinago added that the period between January and May saw the number of container vessels at both terminal and conventional cargo berths decrease from 257 in 2011 to 237. He said berth productivity has gone high with ship to shore gantry cranes doing an average of 20 moves per crane hour. Some vessels such as CMA-CGM La Tour made an average of 54 moves per hour in May this year.

The vessels are loading both full containers and empty containers faster than before resulting in quick evacuation of the container yards. According to KAPA, block stacking and yard planning have also greatly improved, making the yard more fluid. Available statistics have shown that the total number of full containers delivered by road in May was 39,378 TEUs compared to 27, 913 TEUs delivered during the same period in 2011 representing an increase of 41 percent.

During the same period this year a total of 1,488 TEUs were delivered by rail compared to 1,681 TEUs in 2011 representing a decrease of 11 percent. "The improvement on road deliveries has largely been attributed to the recent opening of additional three lanes," Mwasinago said. "This is over and above the initial additional lanes at Gates 18/20 and 9/10 which were opened during the Rapid Results initiative (RRI) period which also saw Gate 18 restricted to cargo trucks only."

Analysts say plans to convert berths 11-14 and construct the new Kipevu terminal could set the government back between 500 million U.S. dollars and 1 billion dollars if it does not attract private funds.


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