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Cheers as largest container ship sails into Mombasa port

Assistant Director Investment

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 fertilizer 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.

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