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Port registers turnaround

NAIROBI, November 12- Acting Finance Minister Mr John Michuki says efforts to turn around the operations at the Port of Mombasa have begun to bear fruit.

Mr Michuki said the government had been implementing reforms and specific measures including the introduction of the 24-hour service to improve the port’s operational efficiency and competitiveness.

“To this end, I am pleased to inform Kenyans that the progress report presented to me by the joint task force that was put in place to implement the actions agreed on in September shows encouraging performance,” he said in a statement.

The statement which came after he visited the port to assess the progress that has been made for the past two months, said his directive that the Kenya Revenue Authority’s Simba system and Kenya Ports Authority’s Kilindini Waterfront Terminal Operating System (KWATOS) be seamlessly integrated to ensure faster clearance of cargo had been effected.

He also disclosed that an e-tracking system by KRA was due to be fully operational by the end of next week in order to facilitate free and faster movement of transit cargo. Further, the payment system at the KPA, Mr Michuki added, would also be streamlined to allow agents to make payments through commercial banks.

“I am confident that this milestone achievement will go a long way in reducing delays in cargo release, eliminate physical contacts and indeed minimise corruption,” he enthused adding that an exercise to light up the port was underway.

In the report, the task force recommended the disposal of 582 containers within the next one and a half months and the auctioning of vehicles that have overstayed at the port by end of January 2009.

“Those vehicles that have not met the country’s standards should be crushed within the next two weeks,” Mr Michuki directed adding that there were on-going efforts to identify funding sources for the purchase of additional equipment for faster handling of cargo at the port.

Despite being a valuable national economic asset which also serves hinterland countries such as Uganda, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Southern Sudan, the port has been faced with inefficiencies that compromise efforts to make the country competitive.

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It is estimated that it takes similar time and resources to clear one container at the port of Mombasa compared to about 500 containers at the port of Singapore.

Mr Michuki has however reiterated the government’s medium term plans to further develop the port infrastructure including building new roads and a modern railway line which would enable the country to reap the full benefits of an efficient port.

In 2006, the government announced plans to construct a second port in Lamu to ease congestion at the Mombasa harbour but work is yet to start.

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