Government agencies at the Port of Mombasa have urged the Burundi National Monitoring Committee (NMC) on Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) to make Mombasa their Port of choice to maximize on the benefits of Kenya’s Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) freight service.
Senior government officers from the Ministry of East African Community (EAC), Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), Kenya Railways (KR), Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and Northern Corridor Transit Transport Coordination Authority (NCTTCA) during a meeting with officials of the Burundi NMC on NTBs depicted the Port of Mombasa as a panacea for transit market.
Officials of the Burundi NMC on NTBs led by Chairperson Daniel Kabura were on a fact-finding mission at the Port of Mombasa to exploit opportunities for trade facilitation between the two countries.
He was accompanied by Burundi’s Director of Customs, Trade and Investment in the Ministry of EAC Affairs Ndizeye Bobby Jean Marrie (who is also secretary of NMC on NTBs) and Vice Chairperson Rosime Tuyishime.
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The Burundi team was enticed with Kenya’s improved road and rail infrastructure network which provides them with access to the alternative North Central Corridor route through the Holili One Stop Border Post (OSBP) which significantly shortens the distance between Bujumbura and Mombasa by about 400km.
The visitors heard that using SGR freight service from the Port of Mombasa to Nairobi and Naivasha Inland Container Depot (ICD) and then to the old Meter Gauge Railway (MGR) all the way to Malaba were a sure way of saving time and costs.
Due to the linkage with the SGR freight service, the Port of Mombasa has become a cheaper alternative for the shipment of goods to the hinterland.
“Kenya Railways has constructed an MGR line linking the SGR line at the Naivasha ICD. This means that cargo destined for Western parts of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Eastern DRC and South Sudan can be moved by SGR to Naivasha for onward movement to Malaba/ Kampala by rail then picked by road to the final destinations,” said David Muga, Principal Marketing Officer, Kenya Railways.
He said the cargo volumes transported from Naivasha ICD via MGR have continued growing and announced KR’s plans to soon acquire 16 new MGR locomotives.
Muga presented operation details in terms of distance and transit time saying cargo transportation by rail from the Port of Mombasa to Nairobi-Naivasha – Malaba, a distance of 1062 km would take five days, while from the Port of Mombasa-Nairobi- Naivasha- MalabaKampala, a distance of 1315 km would take seven days.
The officer also noted that rehabilitation of the Port of Kisumu was an option for transporting cargo by SGR to Naivasha then to Kisumu by MGR then via the lake route to two different routes Jinja and Port Bell in Uganda.
His sentiments were corroborated by the KR Coast Operations Manager Thomas Ojijo who added that “Our intention is to start getting cargo to ply from the Port of Kisumu, delivered to Mwanza upon the inauguration of MV Uhuru II which has a higher capacity of 1800 tons.”
Addressing the meeting, KPA’s Manager Conventional Cargo Operations Ali Mwambire who was answering for the General Manager Cargo Operations, said the Port of Mombasa has capacity and the requisite expertise to handle all cargo including Burundi’s.
“We really want that Burundi cargo and for us distance is not an issue as long as we have efficient technology and the road-rail connectivity,” he said.
Mwambire described Burundi as a key customer saying that explains why the Authority set up a liaison office in Bujumbura in 2014.
He said the distance between Mombasa and Bujumbura through the North Central Corridor is 1640 km as compared to 1957 km via the Northern Corridor.
“In terms of port tariffs, for us at KPA we are looking at how we can offer incentives to customers who are willing to route their cargo through the Port of Mombasa,” he added.
NCTTCA’s Director of Customs and Trade Facilitation Emille Sinzimusi observed that transport by rail in the region was becoming a game changer specifically with the advent of the SGR.
He said Burundi as a hinterland market needs to exploit the potential provided by the SGR and the facilities at Nairobi and Naivasha ICDs to enjoy the economies of scale in cargo movement.
Sinzimusi noted that though the cargo volumes from the Port of Mombasa to Burundi are deemed marginal, currently a lot of cargo leaves Nairobi’s Industrial area to Burundi through Namanga.
“When you ferry cargo from the Port of Mombasa to Naivasha ICD and move it to Bujumbura through Isebania, you will realize a lot of economies of scale,” he added.
Burundi-bound cargo volumes through the Port of Mombasa dropped from 22,000 metric tons in 2018 to 13,805 metric tons in 2022.
Officials from Kenya’s EAC Ministry Edward Owango, acting Director Economic Affairs, Dr Juma Wakhungu, Director Regional Liaison and Research, Charles Ngunjiri, Deputy Director in charge of Transport and Logistics and Dennis Osoro, Senior Regional Integration Officer were also present during the meeting held at the Port of Mombasa.
Owango encouraged the team to exploit the existing opportunities to ensure realization of efficiency and effectiveness in doing business within the region.
“From the bigger picture of the EAC we want trade facilitation to be key because it is actually the engine of East African Community’s integration and as land -linked countries you bear the heaviest burden on the cost of doing business because you are far from the port,” he said.
Kenya Ship Agents Association (KSA) CEO Juma Tela who was also present encouraged the Burundians to use the Port of Mombasa saying it remains one of the best in terms of performance.
“When our member’s vessel docks at the Port of Mombasa it takes two to three days, and they are done. Productivity is high, ship stay is short and we are proud of this port as far as efficiency is concerned,” said Tela.
The Burundi delegation expressed delight following a successful tour of the Port of Mombasa and would later be conducted on a tour at the One Stop Border Post at Holili/Taveta.
“We are more satisfied and convinced it will be good for Burundi to partner with Kenya and to use your facilities, if possible, we will make use of the shortcut via Taveta-Holili,” said Mr. Kabura Daniel.