Mombasa, Kenya's principal sea port, is a major provider of essential international maritime links for land-locked neighbouring countries. The Port of Mombasa is managed by the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), a parastatal fully owned by the Kenya Government.
Transit transport accounts for a significant portion of the total traffic handled at the Port, increasing rapidly over the past five years from 1.31 million tones in 1999 to 2.21 million tones in 2002. Trans-shipment traffic has also trippled over the same period: from 143,000 tonnes in 1999 to 340,000 tonnes in 2002.
Transit traffic through Mombasa
Although local traffic to Kenya represents a substantial volume of incoming cargo, part of the raw materials imported through the Port of Mombasa and destined to Kenya manufacturers is re-exported, after transformation, to the other countries of the region.
Uganda relies heavily on the Port of Mombasa; about 80 per cent of its imports pass through the port, accounting for about 15 per of total traffic through Mombasa.
The bulk of Rwanda's exports of coffee, tea, tin and ore and its imports of consumer goods, machinery, food and fuel also go through the Kenyan port. KPA figures show that, of the total 10.6 million tonnes of cargo, both import and export, that went through Mombasa in 2001, 109,000 tonnes were either destined to Rwanda or were from that country.
Burundi and the DR Congo are also heavily reliant on the port, especially for fuel imports.
Although a non-member of the Northern Corridor, Tanzania-bound imports account for almost 8 per cent of total transit traffic. Other non-members users include Sudan, a major user which accounts for three per cent of the total transit traffic. Ethiopia, Somalia and Malawi are among the minor users of the port.
The deep-water port, with its 21 berths, including two bulk oil jetties and ample dry bulk wharves, is geared to serve ships of all sizes and can handle all types of cargo. However, only half the cargo capacity of 20 million tones is utilized.
The Port offers a diverse range of services to enable shippers to export and import cargo worldwide. These services include pilotage to ships; berthing of ships; stevedoring; and, shore handling of cargo.
Specialist facilities include cold storage and warehousing. The container terminal is one of the best equipped in the region and is linked to new inland depots in Nairobi, Kisumu and Eldoret.
Expansion of the port's container terminal has been due since 2001 when container traffic surpassed the capacity of 250,000 TEUs per year. With container traffic expected to exceed 330,000 TEUs per year, KPA has constructed a one-stop documentation center to speed up clearance of containerized cargo.
KPA estimates the cost of expanding the container terminal at US$215 million. KPA also plans to upgrade the ICDs at Nairobi and Kisumu in order to alleviate congestion at the container terminal.
The Port Authority has also introduced an appointment system for loading of trucks, which has eased traffic at the container terminal. Even so, expanding the capacity of the container terminal remains one of KPA top priorities for improving infrastructure at the Port of Mombasa.