For years the yard resembled a dilapidated city abandoned to destruction. Large swamps inhabited by rodents and other creatures covered this muddy section of the port of Mombasa known as Yard Five. In the rainy season, the place would be extremely muddy and too soggy to be used by heavy container moving machines. In the dry season, the earth would crack and burst into loose soil emitting mountains of dust and creating a visibility challenge. In all weather, Yard 5 was a health hazard and unfit for human utilisation. However, the intervention of TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) has seen the Yard rehabilitated, paved and modernised. The dust is gone and so is the mud, replaced by a modern all-weather container yard.
“For close to a 100 years, Yard 5 was an abandoned area. We could not use it for more than two weeks in a row in any given month,” says Kennedy Nyaga, Senior Project Engineer at KPA. The rehabilitation of Yard 5 has tremendously improved the business space at the port: “We are now able to stack the 293 20-foot containers at a height of four per slot in an average of four days.” The additional capacity created per year is 77,800 20-foot equivalent units (TEUS) at the KPA yard. This brings about an annual capacity of 1.32 million TEUs. “No wonder in 2014 we broke through the 1 million TEUs mark!” remarks Engineer Nyaga. The Editor of Our Ports Magazine, a publication of the Port Management Association of Eastern and Southern Africa and a frequent user of Mombasa port, George Sunguh argues that the rehabilitation of Yard 5 and the continued capacity expansion increases the volumes of containers handled by the port.
The yard, says Sunguh, also pushes the port higher up in its ranking among the top ports in Africa and the world. Mohamed Faruk, KPA’s Principal Statistician says the fact that KPA can handle more 20-foot containers than in the past is a clear indication of the growing trade capacity. Yard 5 comes rapidly in the wake of the port’s growing efficiency given a boost by the dredging of the main entrance channel to minus 15 metres and the widening of the turning basin to 500 metres thus enabling larger vessels to call in at the port. In 2013, the port also completed the construction of 240m long Berth 19. It is deeper and longer and has an additional stacking yard of 15 acres increasing the ports capacity by 250,000 TEU annually. In its endeavour to assist the port expand and grow its trade capacity, The United Kingdom through its DFID invested USD 2.22 million through TMEA in Yard 5.
This will act as a precursor to investments in the construction of the second container terminal. This construction involves the initial construction of three berths scheduled for completion by March 2016. The new berths have an additional capacity of 450,000 TEUs with two further expansion phases running through to 2020. The port management says that to complement the construction of Yard 5, the port invested in new and modern cargo handling equipment which has improved efficiency. The equipment includes ship to shore gantry cranes, terminal tractors and reach stackers. “Delays at the port are normally caused by external factors. Our job is to handle cargo and release it. When you congest the port there is a decrease in loading and this creates space for accidents,” explains Faruk Mohammed. “We need to release containers the same day they are handled. The less time the container takes within the yard the better.”
Engineer Nyaga says that with the rehabilitation of Yard 5, the turn-around time for ships has reduced even as the capacity to clear containers through the port is increasing: “The throughput containers are growing by 15 per cent per month for this current year,” says Nyaga. This fact is corroborated by the General Manager Corporate Services, J. O. Nyarandi. For the first time ever, the container business has started to grow. “Two years ago we started forcing ships to use berth number 5. This proved a challenge as there was no starting yard. The rehabilitated Yard 5 now affords us space for around 70,000 containers and we quickly purchased new equipment for Kilindini.” He adds that with the handling of 1.12 million containers in 2014, KPA must now concentrate on how efficiently it utilizes its vantage point to clear cargo and grow regional trade.
Source: TradeMark East Africa (TMEA)