• Importers and exporters in the region are expected to foot heavily bills due to demurrage, transport costs, damaged goods and lost opportunities at the Port of Mombasa
A major crisis at the Port of Mombasa because of heavy rains pounding Kenya’s coastal belt has led to huge delays in clearing cargo destined for Rwanda and other regional states that depend on the facility for their international trade.
Rwanda is a major user of East Africa’s premier port and the current problem at the port is expected to heavily affect the flow of goods to and from the country. The same case will apply to the entire business community in the region with importers and exporters expected to foot heavy bills due to demurrage, transport costs, damaged goods and lost opportunities.
Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, South Sudan, parts of the DRC and Ethiopia depend on the Port of Mombasa, which has, over the years, faced breakdowns and inefficiencies as a matter of routine in serving the region.
Ships were yesterday queuing in the high seas waiting to discharge their cargo while others were diverted to the Port of Dar es Salaam, raising transport costs.
The port of Mombasa has also suffered due the piracy problem off the coast of lawless Somalia, which has forced ships to take longer routes sharply increasing costs.
An attempt by the Kenyan government to turn the port into a 24-hour seamless operation is yet to bear fruit as equipment failure and congestion getting in and out of the facility adds to costs.
The current situation is so dire that the Managing Director of the Kenya Ports Authority, Gichiri Ndua, has taken paid up adverts in all the major newspapers in the region, including yesterday’s The New Times, to issue an alert over the crisis in the port.
He said the rains which had pounded Kenya’s coastal belt for the past 10 days, “had disrupted port operations, especially for products that are brought in bulk like sugar, wheat, maize and rice.”
This is particularly critical as donor oganisations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and UN relief agencies were importing the foods to restock their stores in the wake of the recent drought and famine that hit East Africa and the Horn Region leaving an estimated 13 million people vulnerable.
As if that was not bad enough, he said the flow of road traffic “of which the port relies for up to 95 percent for the receipt and delivery” of cargo has been badly damaged by the rains.
The port is also suffering outages that have rendered the use of equipment in loading and offloading cargo impossible.
According to records from KPA, the bulk of Rwanda's exports of coffee, tea, tin and ore and its imports of consumer goods, machinery, food and fuel pass through the Kenyan port.
Speaking to The New Times yesterday, Janet Nkubana president of Rwanda Exporters Association, said that infrastructure breakdown at the Port of Mombasa will automatically affect Rwanda’s exports and imports as increased delays will affect delivery time of the goods.
“We are at a high risk because we have to ensure we keep our clients, especially in this economic crisis, and deliver in time. So this means we have to have other options,” she said.
The options, according to Nkubana, may include companies airlifting their goods which will greatly increase freight charges as air transport is more expensive.
“But there are exports such as coffee and tea which cannot be airlifted because of volumes”, she said. Such exports will be adversely affected leading to low export receipts.
Nkubana said that goods that have been destined to the Tea Auction market in Mombasa would be affected as it will be extremely difficult to meet the deadline of delivery to the market. Rwanda is a member of the Tea Auction Market.
Nkubana added that productivity will also slow down as many industries rely on imported raw materials which will increase their production costs, putting industries under pressure to increase the cost of their goods at a time when consumer prices have shot through the roof.
Trade and Industry Minister Francois Kanimba, said that though he was not aware of the notice by the KPA, he was going to engage the business community on how to deal with the situation.
Commenting on the same issue, the Secretary General of Rwanda Truck Drivers Association, Theodore Murenzi, said that they are likely to face hard times both at the port and on the road, which will increase transport costs.
“Transport accounts for over 40 percent on the total cost of imported goods, this means that the bad weather is going to cause more delays which is likely to push the costs higher,” he said.