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How Mombasa beat Djibouti, Dar in new World Bank port ranking

Mombasa port bypassed its main Eastern African competitors, Djibouti and Dar es Salaam, in the latest World Bank global ports index over ship delays and non-tariff barriers.

According to the newly released Container Port Performance Index (CPPI) 2023, increasing business bottlenecks in the Djibouti port, a facility touted as the region’s maritime hub, resulted in a drastic drop from position 26 in 2022 to 379 in 2023.

Cargo trucks queue as the Process of removing Private Equipment and Idle Containers which have overstayed at the Port of Mombasa, Kenya on April 24, 2024. PHOTO | NMG

The port of Dar es Salaam dropped 55 places from 312 to 367, blamed on inefficiencies.

This year, Ethiopia, the most populous country in the region, cited increasing insecurity in the Red Sea and Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) in the Djibouti port as some of the factors that led Addis to intensify its quest to have an alternative corridor for its imports and exports, with the country looking to the Lamu port.

Addis approached the self-declared autonomous Somalia region, Somaliland, seeking the use of its Berbera port, a deal that caused serious diplomatic tension with Mogadishu, which declared the deal null and void. Ethiopia offered Somaliland possible recognition in exchange for being allowed to set up a naval base and commercial port, a move Mogadishu declared illegal.

A Memorandum of Understanding signed by Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on January 2, was supposed to grant Ethiopia’s naval forces access to 20 kilometres of Somaliland coastline for 50 years.

In return, Dr Abiy agreed that the Ethiopian government would engage in an “in-depth assessment” of Somaliland’s recognition.

Somaliland also received a stake in Ethiopian Airlines.

But Mogadishu annulled the deal, pushing the Ethiopia government to renew interest in the use of the port, has given the $25 billion Lamu Port, South Sudan, Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) corridor a lifeline, after South Sudan focused on using the Mombasa port.

In May this year, Ethiopia got its first shipment of fertiliser through the Lamu port, in a move to diversify its trade routes and reduce reliance on ports in Djibouti. The port of Dar, which has been giving Mombasa a run for its money, also saw a drop from 312 in 2022 to 367 in 2023, way below Mombasa, which fell two positions to 328 in 2023.

Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) Managing Director Capt William Ruto said that Mombasa port is competing with other international ports and the Strategic Plan 2023-2027 is meant to increase its throughput and efficiency.

Capt Ruto attributed the resilience of the port to the elimination of NTBs such as roadblocks and double weighing of transit cargo at the entry and exit points.

“To remain relevant in the dynamic maritime industry, we have also continued to invest in port capacity expansion and modern equipment acquisition. The total container capacity for both Container Terminal 1 and second container terminal at the Port of Mombasa stands at 2.1 million 20-foot equivalent units per annum,” Capt Ruto said.

Kenya Ships Agents Association Chief Executive Officer Elijah Mbaru noted that the World Bank report on the status of African ports indicates a need to improve efficiency across the continent, after most of the ports recorded a decline on the ranking. Mr Mbaru said ports play an important role in facilitating economic growth globally and are a critical conduit within the supply chain.

He said the implementation of new digital systems and sustainable practices have reduced vessel waiting time from days to hours and, with such efforts, efficiency will be achieved and the cost of doing business will reduce.

Global trading

“In line with creating employment and being a catalyst for economic growth, it is worrying to see some of the ports on the continent dwindling in terms of efficiency,” Mr Mbaru said.

The CPPI ranks 405 global container ports by efficiency, focusing on the duration of port stay for container vessels. “Its primary aim is to identify areas for enhancement for the benefit of multiple stakeholders in the global trading system and supply chains, from ports to shipping lines, national governments, and consumers,” he said.

The KPA asserts significant improvements in cargo handling at one of East Africa’s gateways. According to the KPA, the turnaround time for container vessels decreased from an average of three days in 2022 to two days in 2023.

Additionally, the average container dwell time was reduced to 3.5 days from 3.9 days in 2022, marking a 10 percent improvement. Ship waiting time for containerised vessels dropped to 0.2 days, with gross vessel turnaround time decreasing from 90.5 hours in 2022 to 64.1 hours in 2023.

The port rankings are based on efficiency, measured by the elapsed time between a ship’s arrival and its departure after completing cargo exchange. The World Bank emphasises that efficient port operations are crucial for regional trade development, noting significant improvements since 2020, following the Covid-19 pandemic-induced downturn.

The ranking methodology used in the report combines an administrative approach, reflecting expert judgement, and a statistical approach using factor analysis to ensure the rankings are both accurate and statistically robust.

In the report, the Port of Berbera in Somaliland surged to position 106, a significant leap from 144, underscoring its rising prominence in regional cargo handling efficiency. Berbera’s impressive performance can be attributed to the operational takeover by DP World in 2017.

Since then, cargo volumes have increased by 35 percent, and vessel productivity has soared by 300 percent. According to the D World, the container terminal achieves 50 – 75 moves per hour, which is significantly better than the global average cited by the World Bank of 23.5 moves an hour.

The port of Mogadishu and Morocco’s Tanger Med showed gains in their positions over 2022. Tanger Med is the highest ranking African port on the World Bank list – and the only African port to command a position in the top 10, as it holds steady in position three.

Operated by APM Terminals, in 2023, Tanger Med Port processed 8,617,410 TEUs, marking a growth of 13.4 percent, compared with 2022. This achievement, equivalent to 95 percent of the port’s nominal capacity, was accomplished four years ahead of targets.

The port took delivery of two of an order of eight STS double cranes, representing an investment of €117 million ($125.5 million). The cranes can manage cargo ships of up to 26 containers with a 24,000-Teu capacity.

Source: The East African

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