Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Joy for Mombasa as new-look port opens

(3L-R): Presidents Museveni, Paul Kagame and Uhuru Kenyatta flanked by other officials during the commissioning of Berth No 19 at Mombasa Port yesterday.
(3L-R): Presidents Museveni, Paul Kagame and Uhuru Kenyatta flanked by other officials during the commissioning of Berth No 19 at Mombasa Port yesterday. PPU PHOTO
The port of Mombasa has consolidated its position as the region’s largest with the opening of a new berth for ships.
The commissioning of berth number 19 in a ceremony attended by three East African presidents will see Mombasa nearly double its cargo handling capacity.
“Receiving, processing and transporting cargo to customers in a timely fashion is a critical indicator of the port’s productivity,” President Kenyatta said in the company of his colleagues Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Paul Kagame of Rwanda. Tanzania’s Jakaya Kikwete and Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi did not attend. The two also skipped a June summit in Entebbe. South Sudan, which did not attend the earlier meeting, was represented by a minister Wednesday.
The port currently has a capacity to handle 250,000 20-foot containers a year. The new berth, the deepest and widest yet, will increase this by 200,000 to 450,000 a year — just a half of regional demand of 900,000 containers.
“Obviously, we still have some way to go,” President Kenyatta said.
The new $66.7 million (Sh6bn) berth is 240 metres long and is the deepest on the East African seaboard.
The Head of State called upon the Kenya Ports Authority management to ensure an efficient and effective management that satisfies the needs of the fast changing and increasing clientele.
Non-tariff barriers
“We have no option. This is the call of our time. We are the custodians of the Gateway to East Africa. Our regional brothers and sisters depend on us to ensure that they never fall in want or suffer unnecessary inconvenience owing to inefficiency or corruption at this port,” he said.
Presidents Museveni and Kagame welcomed the improvements at Mombasa, which handles most of the import and export trade for the two landlocked countries.
President Kagame thanked President Kenyatta’s government for “hitting the ground running” by working to improve infrastructure and reducing non-tariff barriers on trade in the region.
President Kenyatta said his government was determined to upgrade road and rail links with neighbouring countries, starting with the building of a standard gauge railway from Mombasa to Malaba.
This will increase rail freight from the current four per cent to at least 50 per cent in the next few years.
“This port is critical to our region’s development and commissioning of Berth 19 represents the pragmatic aspects of my government’s commitment,” the President said.
The government is committed to the Lamu Port-South Sudan Ethiopia Transport Corridor (Lapsset), which will accelerate social and economic development of the region.
A second container terminal is also being developed, accompanied by a bypass, to relieve the Likoni Channel of traffic and ease movement of goods between Kenya and Tanzania.
The bypass, he added, will traverse Dongo Kundu, where a Special Economic Zone is proposed, to attract business to the Port and generate employment locally.
The President said apart from infrastructure development, his government will hasten removal of barriers that increase the cost of business.
The Head of State added that Information Technology at the Port of Mombasa and along the Northern Corridor is being upgraded to provide seamless, user-friendly interfaces between government authorities and other stakeholders.
He noted that dividends of an increasingly peaceful and stable Somalia had significantly reduced piracy in the Indian Ocean resulting in international business communities’ confidence to trade with the region.
On the Lapsset corridor, he assured the governments of Ethiopia and South Sudan that his government was committed to the project that would accelerate social and economic development of the region.
“My government undertook to deepen Kenya’s economic ties with our neighbours in South Sudan, Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia by taking deliberate steps to eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers while encouraging greater collaboration of our regional partners,” he said.
In his speech flavoured with bouquets and barbs, Mr Museveni criticised African countries for lacking the sense of business and wealth, thus impoverishing a continent with superpower potential.
He challenged farmers and industrialists to take advantage of the expanded port to produce more and exploit the regional market.
With a larger East African joint market, President Museveni added, the region would have the clout to dictate terms to foreign investors to open up their manufacturing firms locally.
According to him, Japan sells millions of vehicles to the region but none of the countries have an assembly factory whereas in China, the same country (Japan) has more than 20 assembly factories.
President Museveni, the current chairman of the East African Community, challenged regional states to unite in a bid to create a bigger market for products and services as well as consolidate their bargaining power with major global economies and trading blocs.
President Kagame said the commissioning of the new berth will serve the people of Rwanda “who do business here through exportation and importation of goods.”