One of the world's largest cargo ships sailed into Mombasa on Monday, signalling that the port's expansion was paying off. Residents lined the Likoni ferry crossing to watch the massive MV MSC Portugal sail up the channel into Kilindini Harbour.

According to Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), the safe navigation into the channel by the ship carrying 6,000 twenty-foot containers indicated the port had finally become a world-class facility.

The vessel, with a length equivalent to three football fields, is the longest container ship to call at the port. It was piloted into the harbour by the port's Operations General Manager William Ruto. The 74,962-tonne ship sails at 24.6 metres depth, displacing 14.518 metres of water in its wake.

It carries 3,105 twenty-foot containers in its cargo space and another 3,550 on the deck. "This vessel is not just an ordinary container ship owing to its size, she can only call at big ports like Reunion and Mauritius in the region, not smaller ones,” said Captain Ruto. He spoke shortly after disembarking from the vessel he navigated in a record one-and-a-half hours from the entrance of the channel. Visiting ships sailing up the Kilindini channel are usually navigated by local pilots to ensure maximum safety of the vessels and their cargo.

Flying the Liberian flag, the ship was expected to offload 1,000 containers and load a similar quantity. Until the completion of a dredging project to minus-15 metres, the channel was restricted to vessels with a maximum depth of 11 metres. The port is now capable of handling third and fourth generation vessels with capacities ranging between 4,500 and 6,000 twenty-foot containers. Other large ships that have called at the port in the recent past include MV Ever Delight and Ital Mattina, with an overall length of 264 metres. Others are MV MSC Tia - of 261 metres - and MV Jolly Quarzo, with a length of 240 metres. The vessels' maiden calls marked a major achievement in the Government’s port expansion programme. Meanwhile, nine container ships docked at the container terminals recording a ship average working time of 3.31 days in the week that ended on April 25.

The vessels discharged a total of 10,391 twenty-foot containers and loaded another 10,246 twenty-foot containers as import container dwell time registered 4.98 days. Import containers declined by 4,647 while exports recorded a decline of 985. The delivery of containers through the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) recorded 2,898 twenty-foot containers while road transport evacuated 8,579. During the week under review, the total container yard population recorded 19,013 twenty-foot containers. These comprised 7,037 twenty-foot containers awaiting pick-up order, 3,281 ready for collection, 1,750 full exports and 2,023 trans-shipments. Others included 3,962 Twenty Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) empties and 960 TEUs at the customs warehouse. Local imports registered 4,074 twenty-foot containers while transit-bound containers recorded 3,991. Uganda-bound cargo recorded 3,033 TEUs to retain her leading position in the transit market segment. Other transit countries are Tanzania that registered 379 TEUs, South Sudan with 213 TEUs, Democratic Republic of Congo with 169 TEUs, Rwanda with 146 TEUs, and Somalia and Burundi, which recorded 29 TEUs and 12 TEUs respectively.

The weekly performance at the conventional cargo terminal revealed that 14 general cargo ships docked and discharged 167,721 metric tonnes. A total of 26,849 metric tonnes were loaded for export. Cargo delivered by road transport recorded 104,387 metric tonnes while the conveyor belt evacuated 63,334 metric tonnes. Wheat emerged the leading import commodity registering 63,334 metric tonnes, followed by 62,400 metric tonnes of clinker and 21,000 metric tonnes of illuminate exports.

Other commodities handled in large quantities included 18,812 metric tonnes of fertiliser and 4,894 metric tonnes of sorghum. Motorcar carriers discharged 256 units of cars and 70 trucks. A forecast for the next two weeks indicates that 21 general cargo vessels are expected to discharge 327,562 metric tonnes and load another 2,492 metric tonnes. The container terminals are expected to received 13 ships to discharge 7,247 TEUs and load 7,095 TEUs.


The Kenya Railways (KR) on Friday got a boost after another shipping line committed to transport cargo from Mombasa Port to the Inland Container Deport (ICD) in Nairobi through the standard gauge railway (SGR).

PIL (Kenya) Ltd on Friday flagged off a full block of freight trains to Nairobi after signing an agreement with KR at the port.

The signing of the agreement and the commencement of transportation of cargo by the shipping line is expected to boost SGR freight services.The train loaded with 180 containers left Mombasa Port at 4pm for ICD in Nairobi.


Anthony Firmin, chief operating officer at Hapag-Lloyd, said:  "Our West Africa Express (WAX) service from and to West Africa has been operating with extraordinary success for several years and is very well received by customers.

"With our new East Africa Service (EAS), connecting Saudi Arabia with Kenya and Tanzania, we have entered another new trade. As a result, we are tying Africa even more closely to our global network while benefitting at the same time from positive economic developments in large parts of Africa," he added.

Hapag- Lloyd said the GDP of West Africa has grown significantly in the last two years, rising by an average of 6 percent annually, with Ghana among the fastest growing economies in the region. Growth has been driven primarily by the trade in gold but also in oil and gas products.

Ghana is gradually becoming a trans-shipment hub in West Africa following expansion works carried out at the Tema Port, Mr Anthony Firmin, the Chief Operating Officer of Hapag Llyod, a German shipping Line, has said.

“The growth of Tema Port will further reinforce the role of Ghana as a hub for West Africa.”

At a Press Conference to announce the official opening of its new offices located in Tema, Mr Firmin recounted that Ghana’s economy was strongly growing. He noted that his company chose Ghana because the country was not only politically and legally stable, but was business friendly, making many multinationals in West Africa to set up their regional offices here.

Mr Firmin said Ghana’s strong regional setting also offered a springboard into Africa and access to market of 350 million inhabitants.He said his organisation for the past three years had offered expertise and support in the exportation and importation of perishable items such as yam, fruits and fish to Europe and across the globe. Mr Firmin was also pleased that the company’s enhanced presence in West Africa was showing signs of success.

“Our West African Express (WAX) service to and from West Africa has been operating with extraordinary success for several years and is very well received by customers.

“With our new East Africa Service (EAS), connecting all major trades globally via our hub in Saudi Arabia with Kenya and Tanzania, we have entered another new trade.

“As a result, we are tying Africa even more closely to our global network while benefiting at the same time from positive economic development in large parts of Africa,” he said.

He said Ghana was among the fastest growing economies in the Region, adding that her growth was primarily driven by the trade in gold, oil and gas products. Mr Firmin said Ghana’s ports handling capacity was likely to triple by mid-2019, from one million to three million Twenty Equivalent Unit (TEU).

“Hapag-Llyod is expecting additional growth opportunities from this capacity expansion,” he added.

Hapag Llyod is one of the world’s leading shipping lines with a fleet of 219 modern container ships and total transport capacity of 1.6 million TEU. It has about 12,500 employees with over 380 offices in 125 countries.