Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) has announced a rise in the handling fees at Mombasa Port.
The move, according to KPA is to meet increasing operational costs and raise funds to position the port to be at par with others.
The New Times could not however establish the new handling charges as KPA a management official in Kampala was cagy to announce the figures.
"KPA last reviewed tariffs in 2005 despite the increase in the costs of doing business world over. As a result it was necessary for KPA to review its chargers," William Matengo, the KPA representative for Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and DRC said recently.
Adding, "Besides the cost of petroleum has also drastically increased for instance big ports like Dubai have reviewed their tariffs within two years as a result of these changes. However the new tariffs have not only gone upwards, some charges were reduced. Our rates remain within the international shipping rates."
The new charges come when Rwanda traders are complaining that high costs at Mombasa port are hurting their business and directly affecting their profits. Besides, they say that the charges are not in conformity with the services at the port.
The traders say though Mombasa has over the years held a substantial lead over Tanzania, handling a larger proportion of the region’s markets, it has also been dogged by problems like the persistent delays in cargo processing and unloading of vessels.
The business community maintains that the scenario has often caused some importers particularly from land locked nations like Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, Malawi and Zambia, as well as the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, to divert to other ports like Dar- es- Salaam.
During the recent Kenya post election violence the Dar port experienced increased transit traffic flow making the port almost unable to cope.
Business Daily Africa, a Nation Group publication reports that there are those who feel that perhaps the KPA could do much better in terms of strategic positioning if the Government actualised the long talked about privatisation of its container terminal.
While the port of Mombasa still remains wholly in the hands of the government, its main competitor Dar- es- Salaam has since been transferred to the private sector, a move which has seen its slow but steady rise of better service delivery.
There is evidence to show that since Hutchison Port Holdings (HPH) took over the Dar port, it has achieved a great deal of success through its Tanzania International Container Terminal Services (TICTS) offshoot.
However, the managers face the daunting task of reducing vessel wait times, which has shot to almost three weeks. HPH had earlier been heaped with praises of reducing turn-around times and rising Dar’s capacity.
KPA’s container terminal which is designed to handle 250,000
twenty-foot unit (TEUs) a year, is now handling close to 600,000 TEUs.
Rwanda transit cargo has systematically increased over the years (2006-2007) from 253, 1113 to 286,655 with a growth of 13.3 per cent. The Port handles 6.5 per cent of Rwanda’s transit traffic share.
KPA is not for now listening to traders’ concerns, exacerbated during the Kenya post election violence that caused a pile up of cargo at the port and made some ship though Dar port.
"We are aware that the crisis in Kenya affected the business community in Rwanda but that is something beyond our scope and we couldn’t do something about it. But now operations and services have resumed normally and everything is going on well," Matengo said.
A statement from KPA says Mombasa last year handled 15,925,955 tonnes of cargo which represents an increase of 1,507,017 tonnes or 10.5 per cent over that of 2006 when performance was 14,418,937 tonnes. Container traffic posted quite a significant of 106,417 TEUs or 22.1 per cent in the period. In 2007, container traffic recorded a total of 585,367 TEUs compared to 479,355 TEUs in 2006.
Transit traffic has increased from 3,807,738 tonnes in 2006 to 4,423,103 tonnes in 2007. This gave an increase of 615,365 tonnes or 16.2%.
Transshipment traffic, traffic, which had drastically slumped between 2003 and 2005, jumped from 318,415 tonnes in 2006 to 426,436 tonnes in 2007.