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Mombasa Port Records a 5% Decline in Throughput during the First Half of 2020

Statistics from the Northern Corridor Transport Observatory report for the period April to June 2020 showed a 5% decline in the aggregate throughput for the months from January to May 2020; from 14.3 million metric tonnes in 2019 to 13.6 million metric tonnes in 2020. During the same period, imports accounted for 82% of the total throughput; suggesting that the balance of trade was unfavourable.

The Northern Corridor route, like any other transit and trade corridors around the world, has suffered adverse effects following the outbreak and declaration of the Coronavirus disease as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation in March 2020.

Evidence from a quarterly report of the Northern Corridor Transport Observatory for the period April to June 2020 reveals that the occurrence of COVID-19 has had a profound effect on the transport and logistics sectors. The global pandemic has exposed how trade facilitation in the Northern Corridor region is vulnerable to sudden disasters. According to the report, the challenges experienced in addressing cross border trade at the onset of the disease manifested lack of transboundary disaster management strategies, thus exacerbating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Statistics from the report showed a 5% decline in the aggregate throughput for the months from January to May 2020; from 14.3 million metric tonnes in 2019 to 13.6 million metric tonnes in 2020. During the same period, imports accounted for 82% of the total throughput; suggesting that the balance of trade was unfavourable.

Cosco_Yingkou_offloading_at Mombasa_Port.jpg

MV Cosco Yinkou is offloaded at Berth No.21 in June 2020

Notably, a larger share of imported cargo through the port of Mombasa for the five months was containerized cargo that stood at 66%. Kenya accounted for the bulk of total throughput at 64%; whereas about 36% of total throughput was for transit market. Uganda remains the biggest transit market destination cargo passing through the port of Mombasa; accounting for 3.28 million metric tonnes during the reporting period.

A further decline in imports as a share of throughput from 84% in January 2020 to 80% in May 2020 was witnessed; suggesting reduction in import trade in the countries that uses the port of Mombasa. However, in May 2020, exports accounted for 13% of total the throughput, increasing from 11% in January 2020; indicating a more-hard-hit import trade as opposed to export trade.

The same report showed a decline in the demand for crude oil which may be attributed to the outbreak of the Coronavirus and perhaps the subsequent cut in oil production by oil-producing countries. According to the Oil Market Report, since May 2020, OPEC+ countries have been reducing output by over nine million barrels per day; a factor that undermined the demand for crude oil globally.

Shrinking trade volumes

Available data indicated that from January to May 2020, a total of 214 ships docked at the port of Mombasa. Notably, the volume of cargo delivered by vessels through the port of Mombasa declined; with average metric tons per ship recorded at 61,598mt in January 2020, further declining to 44,278mt in May 2020. The report attributed these changes to the reduced global demand and trade and predicts that it will dwindle further in tandem with the shrinking trade volumes occasioned by the reduction in economic activities in all countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The average ship waiting time before berth varied from 36 hours in April 2020 to 16 hours in June 2020. Likewise, the average ship turnaround time improved from 111 hours to 75 hours; which may partly be attributed to the initiatives implemented at the port, including the modernization of equipment and expansion of berths.

The Average Container Dwell Time at the Port has seen a steady improvement from 123 hours in April 2020 to 96 hours in June 2020 against a target of 78 hours by December 2020 as per the Mombasa Port and Northern Corridor Community Charter. However, a comparison with the same quarter in 2019 showed an increase in the dwell time for the quarter in 2020. In 2019, the Average Container dwell time ranged between 80 to 88 hours.

Statistics also showed that the indicator for the delays after customs release at the port of Mombasa worsened for the quarter in 2020 to a maximum of 51 hours when compared to the same quarter in 2019, which at its highest stood at 38 hours, as truckers experienced long waits for clearance for COVID-19 health protocols before embarking on their journeys. However, there was a gradual improvement in performance for the quarter from 55 hours in April 2020 to 34 hours in June 2020.

Increased Transit Times

Transit time is determined as the period from the time goods are released at the Port/Inland Container Depots up to the exit points at the border and final destinations. Member States have employed different tracking regimes.

In most of the routes along the Northern Corridor, transit times increased partly due to the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.


Truck drivers park at Malaba border awaiting clearance

Under the Regional Electronic Cargo Tracking System (RECTS) regime which is being implemented to reduce the cost of cargo transportation along the Northern Corridor, transit times from Mombasa to Kampala varied from 156 hours in January to 185 hours in June 2020. From Mombasa to Kigali, the transit time increased from 167 hours in January to almost twice at 306 hours in the month of June 2020. Mombasa to Elegu increased from 91 hours in January to 179 hours in June 2020.

In Kenya, under the SIMBA System, a total of 20,242 trucks for Mombasa to Malaba border route and 718 trucks for Mombasa- Busia border route were sampled to determine the transit times. The report reveals that the average transit time from Mombasa to Malaba border worsened from 152 hours in January to 237 hours in June against a Charter target of 60 hours by December 2020. Furthermore, the average transit time between Mombasa and Busia recorded a similar trend, rising from 90 hours in January to 344 hours in June 2020.

Towards a Resilient, Smart and Responsive Corridor

The report noted that the performance of the Northern Corridor during the quarter was adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic with regional and country-specific containment measures including lockdowns, curfews, social distancing measures, relay trucking, and mandatory testing for truckers precipitating delays. The report further pointed out the need for regional guidelines, collective efforts, and robust systems for early detection and interventions.

The report recommends that the Northern Corridor Member States develop policies geared towards addressing the hazards that may occur and disrupt transport and supply chain logistics. Also, the report emphasizes the need for a detailed assessment of regional vulnerability and putting in place country-specific and transboundary disaster mitigation measures.

In a bid to develop resilience and prepare the Transport Corridor to respond to emerging issues, the report, while appreciating ongoing conversations and roadmaps being suggested by the Member States and different stakeholders aimed at facilitating a quick socio-economic recovery, the following proposals may hold: a regional multi-stakeholder response approach where risk factors and disaster risk reduction measures are integrated into both national and regional policies, plans and programmes; and regional and international cooperation in assessing, monitoring and responding to transboundary hazards. 

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