Container traffic at Mombasa port rose slightly by 5.2 per cent to 615,733 twenty-foot equivalent units (Teus) last year, authorities said. The growth was, however, slower than the 22 per cent expansion the port saw in 2007 when it handled 585,367 Teus, the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) said in a statement.

"The slowdown in growth of container traffic was a result of a sluggish economic performance occasioned by the post-election skirmishes experienced early in the year and the current global economic downturn" KPA said.

KPA said total throughput increased to 16.41 million tonnes from 15.96 million in 2007. Although the post-election violence blocked transport routes to neighbouring landlocked countries, transit traffic headed there grew by 10.2 percent to 4.87 million tonnes from 4.4 million in the previous year, the authority said.

Three-quarters of the transit traffic was destined for Uganda, which imported 3.7 million tonnes of merchandise. The Democratic Republic Congo was in second place with 304,400 tonnes. The amount of bulk liquid handled by the port on the Indian Ocean reduced slightly to 5.63 million tonnes, a 0.2 per cent fall from the previous year. Transshipment, or goods destined for an intermediary destination, was also down.

KPA said it awarded Japan Port Consultants a project design and supervision contract for a second container terminal with a 1.2 million Teus capacity.