14 February 2013

Kenya: Dock Staff to Block Port Privatisation

Angry dock workers yesterday rejected a fresh bid by the government to privatise the Mombasa port.The Dock Workers Union said the port's profit margin has been steadily rising over the years, adding that privatisation was not necessary.

The workers accused Finance minister Njeru Githae and other government officials of being puppets of tycoons who allegedly fund politicians' campaigns.

Githae on Tuesday said privatisation is necessary to eradicate inefficiency and avert loss of business to the rival port of neighbouring Dar-es-Salaam, in Tanzania.

The Tanzanian port is set to upgrade facilities by modernising the Mtwara and Tanga ports. Githae described the project as a major threat to the Mombasa port.

"If that happens, it means the port of Dar-es-Salaam will become a real competitor. We are benefiting from the inefficiencies of the port," said Githae.

"We would like a second container terminal. We would like another cruise ship terminal. All that cannot be done by the government. It has to be done by the private sector," the minister said.

But addressing a news conference yesterday, DWU officials, including assistant general secretary Abubakar Abdullahi, chairman Jeffer Kiti, national gender chair Sharifa Mwamzandi and chief shop-steward Juma Thoya issued a seven-day ultimatum to the government to withdraw the statement.

The union threatened to "use all means available to fight off the plans." "We are going to fight with all we have to retain and maintain the only remaining public owned property from heartless, greedy and few rich individuals," said Abdullahi.

"We are performing. We are telling the minister to look for other sectors to privatise, not the port," said Mwamzandi. She said the port of Dar-es-Salaam manages 580,000 20-Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) with a 10.1-million-ton throughput in 2012 compared with KPA's 903,000 TEUs with a throughput of 21.9 million tonnes.

In 2011, KPA managed 700,000 TEUs and a throughput of 19.1 million tonnes. TEU is a measure used for capacity in container transportation while throughput refers to the movement of inputs and outputs through a production process, in this case the port.

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