Low cargo volumes hurt ship arrivals at Mombasa

At least 40 vessels have been delayed or canceled their voyage to Kenya in the last one month, industry trends show, amid a slow down in the global supply chain.

Low cargo volumes have forced vessels to either create blank sailings or delay sailing.

Blank sailing means a vessel is skipping one port, or that the entire string is canceled. A string is a set of ports served weekly by a carrier.

The low volumes are mainly experienced in key trading partners of China, India, UAE, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.

Other markets are Japan, UK, US, Germany, Netherlands and France, which are major import sources for Kenya.

Shipping lines traditionally secure cargo for different ports in a complete return trip, hence failure to get enough volumes has seen some differ their voyage.

According to a survey by freight logistic firm—Kobo360, the volume of goods moved across the continent has reduced by 30 per cent.

Around 70 per cent of vessels have delayed their arrival time by as much as 40 days,Kobo360 chief strategy officer Kagure Wamunyu told the Star.

“We have seen the biggest drop is non-essentials such as construction goods, by at least 50 per cent,” she said.

These numbers are expected to soar over the next few weeks, impacting manufacturers who depend on raw materials.

There is however continued demand for food because people are at home and need to eat, Wamunyu said, noting a 20 – 30 per cent increase in fast-moving consumer goods.

“Kobo360 is calling on African governments to continue to allow drivers with cargo to cross borders and ensure continuity of trade, so that essential goods can move freely, during these challenging times,” Wamunyu said.

China is the biggest import source for Kenya, but volumes have dwindled since the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Data from the Kenya Trade Network Agency(KenTrade) shows a 38.7 per cent drop in the value of imports from China in January.

According to the agency which oversees the country’s trading platform-Single Window System, the value of imports dropped to Sh54.9 billion, compared to Sh89.6 billion in January 2019.

Clearing agents yesterday reported low business at Mombasa and the Inland Container Deport-Nairobi, where clearing activities are centered.

“Volumes are still low especially China. There are too many challenges,” Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association chairman Roy Mwanthi told the Star yesterday.

Synresins Limited, a key importer of raw material for manufacturing of resin yesterday reported delays on its imports.

“Things are slow,” CEO Mira Shah said.

KPA data shows a total of 151 vessels called at the Port of Mombasa between March 5 and April 8, with an average of 30 vessels per week. During normalcy, the numbers average 35 and above.

During the period, the vessels brought in a total of 116,268 TEUs(twenty-foot equivalent units) with volumes hitting above one million tonnes. There were 8,467 vehicles(cars and trucks).

KPA has expressed confidence in vessel arrivals which despite global challenges, they have continued to call at the port.

“We have had a few blank sails but most vessels scheduled to call at the port came,” KPA head of corporate affairs Bernard Osero told the Star.

At least 37 vessels are expected in Mombasa in the next 14 days, which includes 20 conventional vessels, 13 container vessels, and four oil tankers, KPA data shows.