Mombasa Port, Uganda's gateway to the world, has become a strong magnet for the world's six top shipping lines. Currently being expanded and equipped, the port is becoming busier than ever.
This is good for the people of Uganda, who rely on the port for import-export trade.
Large vessels operated by top shipping lines now call on the port on a regular basis to load and unload cargo that is critical to Uganda's economic development.
Nexus of dreams
This has major implications for millions of Ugandans for whom the port is the nexus of their dreams. Citizens who produce goods for export bank on Mombasa Port to deliver their dreams abroad so that precious foreign exchange can flow back.
The reverse is also true.
Uganda is a top producer of coffee, a crop that does well in the western, central and eastern parts of the country. Every year, Uganda produces more than three million 60kg bags of the crop.
The country is also a strong exporter of tea, cotton, copper, oil and fish.
Importers of industrial and consumer goods - mostly electrical, electronic, machinery, pharmaceutical, motor vehicles, leather and textiles - expect their imports to come through Mombasa Port.
For both exporters and importers, Mombasa Port is the artery that pumps wealth into their pockets.
Beyond that, Ugandan exporters and importers expect their goods to be delivered to and from the hinterland expeditiously.
This is about the processing of goods at the port and their delivery to and from the hinterland.
The arrival of larger vessels offers the region's citizens more space to export or import goods.
When the large vessels land, they offload goods and create room for exports. Is the region ready to exploit this capacity?
Mombasa Port serves more than 30 shipping lines, which connect to more than 80 seaports worldwide. The rapidly growing port is attracting many more shipping lines.
This attractiveness to global shipping lines is testimony to the confidence that the business community has in the port.
Exporters are assured their goods will reach their destination because of the port's link to more than 80 seaports. Similarly, importers are assured that they can source goods from any part of the world and these will be delivered to Mombasa Port, a true gateway to the region.
Currently the deepest port in the region, Mombasa Port can accommodate Panamax container ships of up to 8,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units).
Priming Mombasa Port for more cargo
Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), which manages Mombasa Port, has accelerated infrastructure development and modernisation of equipment. The goal is to improve capacity as well as efficiency.
The port operates a 24-hour working system to ensure delivery of quality and competitive port services.
Mombasa Port Development Programme
Under the Mombasa Port Development Programme (MPDP), a number of capacity improvement projects were implemented. They include the dredging of the port channel, construction of berth 19 and construction of the second container terminal.
Other projects are the continuous upgrading of the port ICT systems and the completion of the first phase of the Standard Gauge Railway.
KPA officials note that the implementation of this programme has continued to increase efficiency levels in the Authority's operations, reducing the ship turn-around time and cargo dwell time. Consequently, the cargo volumes have continued to grow.
The MPDP kicked off in 2005 as part of the actualisation of a 25-year Port Master Plan that focused on capacity enhancement in the wake of growth in cargo volumes.
Second Container Terminal
The first phase of the Second Container Terminal with an annual capacity of 550,000 TEUs was completed at a cost of Ksh28 billion ($280 million). Plans are at advanced stages for the construction of the second phase, which will increase the port's capacity by an additional 450,000 TEUs.
Once phases 2 and 3 are complete, the total capacity of the Second Container Terminal will be 1.5 million TEUs, raising the Port's total container handling capacity to 2.65 million TEUs by 2025.
Link to the Standard Gauge Railway
With the Standard Gauge Railway now linking Mombasa Port to Nairobi, Kenya's capital city, goods transported by rail from Mombasa are offloaded at the Embakasi Inland Container Depot.
The line is being extended from Nairobi to Naivasha, and will ultimately reach the lakeside city of Kisumu. When this is achieved, it will take transporters a short time to deliver goods to and from Mombasa, all the way to Uganda and beyond.
-Written by Evans Ongwae. Email: [email protected]