Export Potential of the Port of Mombasa
The Port of Mombasa can trace its history back many centuries to a time when dhows called at the Old Port on the north side of Mombasa Island. The Old Port is next to Fort Jesus which was built by the Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama. This was during the famous spice trade between the Arabian Gulf, the east coast of Africa
the Indian subcontinent and the Far East when navigators were looking for a new route to the Far East.
Trade began to boom and in 1895 work began on a railway from Mombasa to Kampala in Uganda to open up the hinterland for coffee, tea, ivory and skins. As trade expanded and the interior of East Africa was opened up by the new railway, demand grew for a fully fledged seaport with a spacious deepwater harbour. A new jetty was needed to handle larger ships bringing construction materials for the new railway. Hence, a new port was created at Kilindini Harbour in 1896 with the building of a jetty at Kilindini on the west side of the island which was used mainly for transferring goods between seagoing vessels and the Kenya to Uganda railway. Later, three more jetties were built to handle railborne goods and other import and export traffic.
The Port of Mombasa and other ports including Lamu, Malindi, Kilifi, Mtwapa, Kiunga, Shimoni, Funzi and Vanga are managed by the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) These ports along the coastline  provide the expansive hinterland of mainland Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan and Uganda with transport link to the outside world.
It is only the port of Mombasa which is fully developed with modern equipment hence making it the principal port in the region. At the port of Mombasa, safe navigation, pilotage, berthing, mooring, stevedoring, shore handling and storage services including pollution control are provided by KPA.
The port is equipped to handle a wide range of cargoes including dry bulks such as grain, fertilisers, cement and soda ash and liquid bulks such as crude oil and oil products as well as bagged products (coffee, tea, sugar, etc), break-bulk (iron and steel, timber), motor vehicles, machinery and containerised cargo.
Mombasa Port handled 903,000 TEUs in 2012 and was ranked 5th in Africa and 117th out of the leading 120 container world ports (Vol. 13, Issue 4 October 2013 www.pmaesa.org). As published, the major attribute for the ranking is the dredging of the main entrance channel to minus 15 metres and the widening of the turning basin to 500 metres which has enabled larger vessels to call at the port. In addition, the Mombasa Port’s new berth 19 is deeper and longer with additional stacking yard of 15 acres hence increasing the port’s capacity by 250,000 TEU annually.
On handling Kenyan’s exports, EPC established that out of Mombasa Port’s throughput of 903,000 TEUs only 27% is exports out of which only 49.2% is full exports while the rest of the containers are empty and come back as transhipment with imports. Moreover, out of all imports received at the Port of Mombasa 73% is repatriated i.e. the containers go empty to the importing countries majorly Europe, UK and UAE. In summary, given the statistics, handling exports is not a problem to Mombasa Port even if volumes for export goods increased hence a great opportunity for Kenyan exporters to exploit.
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