Kenya Ports Authority performance picks up after poor results in 2013.

Kenya Ports Authority performance picks up after poor results in 2013.

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Container traffic through the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) increased by nine percent more in the first quarter of this year, than the same period in 2013, boosted by an expansion programme, improved efficiency, and diffused 2012 election jitters which had scared importers from using the port, management said on Wednesday.

The port handled a cargo throughput of 5.56 million tonnes between January and March compared to 5.10 million tonnes in the same period in 2013, Danson Mungatana, the port chairman told journalists at the port in Mombasa, expressing optimism for a good year in 2014.

KPA, east Africa’s biggest port, is a bellwether for economic activity in the region as it handles imports such as fuel and consumer goods for Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia, and exports of tea and coffee from the region.

“The election fever in the early part of last year affected our business volumes especially in the containerized cargo but we are determined to even-out the difference before this year ends,” he said.

In 2013 container traffic through the port dropped to 894,000 twenty foot equivalent units (TEUs) compared to 903,000 TEUs handled in 2012, as east African businesses sought alternative routes for their goods, fearing election violence in the country.

The port is building a $300 million second container terminal to handle increased trade within the region, driven by a boom in the construction industry, vast infrastructure development and an emerging middle class, and Mungatana said the project was already 60 percent complete.

By 2016, the new terminal is projected to have a capacity of 450,000 TEUs and rise to 1.2 million by 2019.

He said they were seeking to attract more high profile port users, to benefit from recently completed expansion programmes at the port especially dredging.

“We are working closely with some of the major shipping lines to explore possibilities of deploying larger vessels to this region through the Port of Mombasa.”

The government is also building a second port in Lamu, with a capacity of 23 million tonnes per year.