Kenya's Mombasa port users have expressed hope that the automation of the port terminal will greatly enhance efficiency of the shipping industry.

The Mombasa port serves inland countries as far as Central African republic, Uganda, Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and Southern Sudan.

Ugandan business community representative, Mr William Kidima, termed the activation of the Kilindini Waterfront Automated System (Kwatos) as a milestone towards streamlining the services at the Mombasa port.

Kidima, however, cautioned that the system must be backed by competent and motivated port staff if the shipping industry is to realize its full benefits.

‘’The new system is good and we support it. However, everyone must know that Kwatos will not move a container from point A to point B or from the yard to the scanners. That still remains the work of the port’s crane and forklift drivers, who need to do satisfactorily work and he on time,’’ Kidima said.

The Kenya International Freight & Warehousing Association (KIFWA) officials said the implementation of Kwatos has complemented the gains of the Simba system of the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA).

“With the launch of Kwatos, we hope the port management will have no excuses of delays such as those that have been happening at the gates,’’ the Kifwa vice-chairman, Mr Peter Mambembe, said.On his part, the Uganda representative said his country’s business community did not have problems with the port, which he described as more efficient than the KRA.

The latter, he said, should take cue from the port and reduce red tape.The Sh 450 million Kwatos system has automated operations in the container terminal, conventional cargo terminal, inland container depots in Nairobi and Kisumu as well as the marine operations.From the costs, Sh200 million covered software while Sh250m went into supporting infrastructure — such as gate modernisation, weighbridges, computer hardware and wireless infrastructure.

The IT project is expected to propel the status of the Mombasa port to new heights in terms of efficiency.The staff of Total Soft Bank, the Korean firm that installed the system is under the supervision of Mr Amos Wangora, KPA’s designated project manager.The port management expects the system to bring about better planning in the operational areas due to enhanced capacity and use of planning tools; optimised use of equipment leading to reduced wear and tear; and enhanced monitoring and supervision of work due to availability user friendly documents and procedures, reduced dwell-time of containers, and less congested offices and operational areas as clients are served from their premises or on appointment.Besides, there would be reduced time wastage as a result of enhanced communication andof real-time information.

The other benefits are enhanced security and better monitoring of cargo. The system users on the other hand will benefit from real time tracking of containers and documents, a development likely to reduce dwell time of goods in port.At the same time, the enhanced efficiency and time spent by clients in the port is likely to witness reduced overhead costs of overheads at the port and, indeed, reduced bureaucracy and corruption as client would henceforth be able to monitor status of documents and cargo on-line.The shipping service and road transport providers can also expect faster turn-around of vessels and trucks in the port.