Kenya Ports Authority has suspended landing of transshipment cargo in Mombasa port from next Monday due to over congestion.

This will allow the port to clear a backlog of 2,741 Twenty Foot Equivalents Units as at Wednesday, destined for Dar es Salaam and other Indian Ocean ports. Normally, the port handles about 2,000 units for transshipment.

The port of Dar es Salaam, which regularly faces similar problems of congestion, significantly relies on Mombasa as one measure of controlling the problem.

Mr Harry Abok, the port’s corporate communication officer, said the suspension was only temporary. “We shall resume transshipment business as soon as we clear the backlog,” the officer said.

Mr Abok said that the port of Mombasa is not bound to take any transshipment cargo and only engages in the business when it is convenient.

Unlike the inland cargo, the transshipment cargo is kept near the berth for convenience and is supposed to stay at the port for only 32 days. “But this does not normally happen and sometimes it takes longer than the stipulated period...

“And since the containers cannot be taken to container freight stations, there is always the problem of availability of space whenever there is a slight congestion at the port,” Mr Abok added.

Once the transshipment cargo has been offloaded from the ships, it is taken to the port of destination using small ships, Mr Abok said.

He said the suspension was not unusual and the port had done it in the past. “During the post-election period, for instance, we suspended the service and resumed in March when the conditions at the port improved,” he said.

KPA announced the suspension on Wednesday in a media advertisement.
There are 11 ships waiting for berths at the port. Mr Abok said this is a high season when the port receives many vessels, some arriving at the same time. The port has increased the number of berths reserved for containers from four to seven.

Kenya's Port managing director Abdallah Mwaruwa expressed concern about lack of stability and satisfaction with the computerised cargo handling and clearance system- Kwatos, which is the main reason why the port is experiencing the present congestion.

Since it was launched on July 1, this year, the Sh450 million system has reported problems of network interface with the already existing enterprise resource planning system which computerised KPA’s internal managerial system in the first phase of computerisation.

Mr Mwaruwa said the port may resort to the old manual system for some time. “The review will hopefully give Kwatos more time to be rectified,” he added.