Business at the premier port of Mombasa has received a major boost following the arrival of the first container vessel deployed under the ASEAN service line arrangement commonly known as “School Bus”.
Marking her maiden call into the calm waters of the sheltered Kilindini harbor, CMA CGM group vessel MV. Blue Whale validates efforts towards sustenance of the vibrant global maritime trade amidst the current plight of covid-19 pandemic.
The vessel with a length overall of 294 meters, an equivalent of nearly total length of three football pitch and a breadth of 32 meters docked at berth 17. She was laden with 5095 containers and was expected to perform 3800 moves.
Under the ASEAN arrangement, CMA CGM runs a vessel sharing service with other two shipping lines Evergreen and Costco. The deployment of Blue Whale is significant as it provides a trade link between the Port of Mombasa and Far East Asia Ports from mainly China, Malaysia, Singapore and Sri-Lanka.
Coming barely two weeks after the inauguration of the JEDDEX line in Kenya, a direct service by four dedicated vessels on a weekly basis between Kenya, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Somalia by the same shipping line, this positive development is a vote of confidence to the Port of Mombasa. It comes at a time when businesses have been battered by the spread of Covid-19 leading to a slump in global shipping and port performance.
The ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) is a regional grouping that promotes economic, political, and security cooperation among its 11 members namely; Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and East Timor.
While handing over a certificate of first call on Tuesday, KPA acting Managing Director Rashid Salim thanked Captain Nikola Dragojlovic on behalf of CMA, crediting the development to the transformation agenda KPA has been implementing to bolster efficiency.
In a tribute to seafarers and port workers, Rashid commended the group for their diligence and selflessness in the face of the pandemic; ensuring supply chains have remained open.
“We are glad we have continued to operate 24/7 albeit with a few challenges; we are more than ever committed to the provision of quality services to our customers,” he said.
Rashid further thanked the shipping lines for their cooperation even as KPA has had to introduce stringent protocols for vessels and crew to minimize the spread of Covid-19 in the course of maritime trade.
CMA CGM Operations Manager Daniel Sepetu said that the service would foster trade between East Asia and Kenya, with a target on export volumes from the country.
Additionally, it will promote the Port of Mombasa as a transshipment hub in the East African Coast as transshipment volumes to Mogadishu are set to increase.
The raft of measures put in place have paid off as Port performance has been spared a major slump during this Covid-19 crisis.
The port’s throughput for the period January –April 2020 recorded a total of 11,316,457 tons of cargo against 11,561,426 tons handled in the corresponding period in 2019. This represents a decline of 2.1 percent mainly attributed to significant decline in loose cargo mainly handling of iron and steel (4.9%) and motor vehicles (23.6%).
In terms of container traffic, cumulatively during the period January –April 2020, the Port handled 445,435 TEUs compared to 454,466 TEUs handled in the corresponding period in 2019. This is a decline of 2.0 % or 9,031 TEUs. The decline was occasioned by a decrease in the handling of exports and transshipment, which recorded a negative variance of 3.3% and a 9.2% respectively.
Total container traffic therefore underperformed the set target of 447,576 TEUs by 32,141 TEUs or 7.2 % during the period under review.
By Joseph Kamolo