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Political heat to hurt Mombasa port performance, warn players

Stakeholders in the transport sector have warned that sustained anxiety resulting from the long electioneering period in Kenya might have devastating effects on Mombasa port’s performance and the Northern Corridor.

Data from the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) indicate that although imports have been flowing into the harbour normally, off-take of cargo has slowed down during the period.

“The imports are normal but the challenge has been experienced in picking up the goods,” said Mr Bernard Osero, KPA head of corporate affairs.
Former Kenya Transporters Association (KTA) chief executive Alfayo Otuke said most transporters had withdrawn their trucks from the roads, fearing for their safety, especially after the opposition boycotted the presidential election rerun.

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While normally more than 3,000 trucks ply the northern corridor route each day, the number has reduced to less than 2,000, said Mr Otuke.

The corridor is the artery that feeds landlocked countries of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo with goods imported through Mombasa, and disruption of the route as witnessed when Nasa supporters protested immediately after the August elections and before the repeat presidential poll, disrupt delivery of cargo.

Becoming risky

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Lately, Rwanda, Burundi and DRC have turned to the Central Corridor that runs from Dar-es-salaam port.

“The northern corridor is becoming risky for transporters who fear to lose their investments and have withdrawn their vehicles from the roads. They have cut down on the fleet that they are operating because of the political uncertainty,” Mr Otuke, who was the CEO at the transporters’ body until last week, said.

Delivery of goods at the port slowed down in the week after the October 26 repeat presidential election, attributed to fears associated with the polls. After withdrawing from the poll that saw President Uhuru Kenyatta re-elected, the opposition announced “resistance measures” that have escalated anxiety among investors.

READ: Business picks up as guns fall silent in Kisumu after demos

According to KPA data, 100,099 tonnes of cargo were collected by trucks between October 26 and November 1, down from 112,692 tonnes the previous week.

The Northern Corridor Transit and Transport Coordination Authority, which runs the Transport Observatory, a monitoring tool that measures 30 indicators on the performance along the corridor and Mombasa port, said the time taken to offload a vessel went up during the electioneering period.

“Data for 2017 also shows that dwell time at Mombasa port increased from 89 hours in July to 107 hours in September. This poor performance can be attributed to the uncertainty associated with election period,” says the authority in its recent report.

The authority said weight compliance levels at weighbridges dropped with the number of trucks transporting goods to neighbouring countries.

At the Webuye weighbridge for instance, during the week between October 25 and October 31, while compliance dropped to 86 per cent from 92 per cent the previous week, only 695 trucks were cleared as opposed to 1,199 the previous week.

At the Busia weighbridge, compliance was at 69 per cent while it was at 71 per cent the previous week and only 53 trucks were cleared compared with 520 the previous week.

This was when protestors blocked roads after Mr Kenyatta was declared winner of the repeat polls by IEBC.


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