Press Center | Freight Shipping Logistics News
The Dock Workers Union has written to Prime Minister Raila Odinga calling for the formal scrapping of plans to privatise the port of Mombasa.
Following a recent strike that paralysed operations and forced the port management to employ additional 500 workers, the more than 6,000-member DWU asked the Government to declare that Mombasa port would continue running as a public entity like the ports of Singapore and Durban, instead of being handed over to private operators who do not necessary guarantee efficiency.
In the letter dated August 1— and also copied to Finance Minister, Uhuru Kenyatta, Transport minister Amos Kimunya and Trade minister Chirau Ali Mwakwere — DWU General Secretary, Simon Sang, argued that privatised ports are not necessarily more efficient, citing ports in West Africa that are under private operators but cannot perform.
"Successful ports have one thing in common – they are market-oriented and strive to satisfy the needs of the port users; The shipping lines being on top of the priority list irrespective of their status," Sang said.
He said Singapore and Durban ports are a success because operations are managed free from bureaucratic and political interference, meaning that the ports are able to respond effectively to market, opportunities and clients’ needs.
The union also called for immediate reforms in the governance structures, systems and the quality, composition and orientation of the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) board of director’s board to improve industrial relation at the port.
"For some years now, the Authority has experienced unnecessary deterioration in the state of its industrial relations due to defects in its governance regime. The recent strike by workers in the Mombasa Port is a testimony to this fact," he said.
In the letter, the union warned that the port’s competitive ability would only improve if appropriate reform measures were undertaken.
"Such required professional input comes only from a team of management with professionals as majority. In the circumstances, we urge the Government to take immediate remedial measures with our input being considered," he said.
Two weeks ago, DWU called a workers’ strike at the port to compel the Government to scrap the privatisation plans, claiming they were politically motivated and would cost about 4,300 jobs.
The strike ended when KPA managing director, Gichiri Ndua, announced the employment of 500 workers on permanent terms, and assured the union that the port would not be privatised.
This move came after daylong talks between the KPA management and the union officials. Ndua has insisted KPA was only undergoing restructuring in line with steady business growth since 2002.
On his recent tour of Coast region, Raila announced the Government would form an inter-ministerial committee to look into issues affecting the port including workers’ grievances.
In the letter, Sang claimed the state targeted to privatise areas of the port where Sh35 billion taxpayers funds have already been invested, instead of privatising new areas like the proposed Dongo Kundu free port.
"Why privatise berths 11 to 14 when the private operator will only bring in Sh6 billion as the cost of equipment and he takes away 40 per cent of container operation profits?" he posed.
The union claimed the scheme to privatise the port was hatched by a few well-organised groups with vested interests, at the expense of the majority of Kenyans.
The union also dispelled the notion that low performance was brought about by lack equipment, saying it was insufficient storage space for storage and operational processes that were to blame.
By PATRICK BEJA
PARASTATAL heads who signed the Mombasa port community charter risk being sacked if their agencies do not deliver on the contents of the new entity. The charter signed between the government and the private sector aims at improving the movement of cargo from the port into hinterland