Shortage of marine pilots and labour gangs could lead to shipping penalties at Mombasa port


Currently there is a big shortage of mooring vessels, pilotage vessels and harbour tugs at the KPA’s marine section. PHOTO/KPA

Some of the best performing former KPA managing directors and current and former section managers


  1. P.J Mwangola

  2. Edward Halwenge

  3. Aggrey Mwandawiro Ammon

  4. Jonathan  Mturi

  5. Albert  Mumba

  6. Brown Ondego

  7. Lenny Mwangola

  8. Robert Breneissen

  9. John Mwadime

Best Operations Managers:

  1. Capt. R.H.C. Dale

  2. Capt. A. J.    Ketoyo

  3. James Halwenge

  4. Mr.     Rashid Marwan

  5. Mr.     Bamahiriz

  6. Capt.  Musoke

  7. Capt. Lucas Owaga

  8. Capt. Twalib Khamis

  9. Capt.  Adnan Banafa

  10. Mr.   Said  Mwasinago

By Andrew Mwangura

The shortage of habour vessels and manpower at the port of Mombasa might cause port congestion and raises risks of demurrage charges at the port.

Currently there is a big shortage of mooring vessels, pilotage vessels and harbour tugs at the KPA’s marine section, a situation that is causing anxiety to the port users and particularly shipping lines and agents.

Acting Kenya Ports Authority Managing Director, John Mwadime. PHOTO/KPA

There’s also under manning of the vessels given that majority of the mooring gangs, qualified marine pilots and the crew members of harbour tugs and pilot boats are retired and the remaining few are on their way to retirement.

Frequent port congestions at the port of Mombasa is likely to force shipping lines to shift from Mombasa port to other sea ports in the region thus denying our country the much needed revenues. 

The Kenya Shipping Agents Association has already expressed serious concerns on the goings on pointing out that lack of pilots was causing ships to wait for long periods before they are driven in.

They fear that following the recent directives that waived exclusive transfer of inbound cargo by SGR could bring congestion unless the KPA upped their pilotage and stevedoring capacity.

These kinds of delays have characterized this year when one considers that early January to March, many vessels arriving at the port for the purpose of cargo or other operations were unable to berth and they had to wait outside port limits and at Mtongwe and Port Reitz anchorages for a berth to become available.

The congestion created a backlog on the shore side operations which affected the productivity of the port and the container terminal forcing the ships on the berth working longer and the ships waiting outside for the berth to wait longer while other vessels kept adding to the queue.

Congestion at the port create a backlog on the shore side operations which affected the general productivity of the port. PHOTO/KPA

Port congestion at the Kilindini Harbour is caused by the following factors:

  • Incidences of booking container terminal beyond its capacity; insufficiency of port handling equipment; limited yard space; and vessel bunching.
  • Other factors include low productivity; sabotage; shortage of manpower at the marine section;
  • Shortage of harbor vessels; substandard harbor vessels; and shortage of marine pilots.

The Kenya Ships Agents Association (KSAA) through their CEO, Mr Juma Tellah, have expressed frustrations with the state of affairs to an extent of calling for privatization of the functions in case the KPA is not placed to guarantee the required level of performance.

“These challenges are inflating vessel operating costs and making Mombasa Port expensive. It is important to note that many ports are implementing fixed berthing window programs to improve port efficiency,” Mr Tellah says.

Such moves are undertaken to avoid disruption of ships schedules hence occasioning unnecessary rise in costs.

The dock workers on their part have declared that they would limit their overtime to 30 per cent since existing regulations do not reward any effort beyond that. With their union having reminded the workers to observe the rule, shipping companies fear that the shortage of labour gangs would bite hence worsening the imminent congestion.

The ships agents are calling on the port management for a meeting since the last one was held in December 2021. Currently the port of Mombasa has a shortage of 4 marine pilots while Lamu port has a shortage of 2 marine pilots.

Presently Kilindini habour has 16 marine pilots while 4 of them are officer bearers, they cannot go out to sea. 

The current Managing Director of the KPA is leading the KPA at very dynamic times namely the recent presidential directive reverting cargo clearances in Mombasa, full operationalization of the Lamu port and that of Kipevu II terminal in Mombasa.

That notwithstanding, it is instructive the Port of Mombasa to date has never been headed by a person whose main qualifications and or experiences are in the shipping, maritime, and or port management domains.

The previous CEOs came with competencies in accounts, engineering, architecture, corporate management, and public administration. Many of them failed miserably to turn around the port.

Never has the entity a befitting professional in terms of bringing requisite education, background and experience. Often the real professionals have had in the past been relegated to supporting incompetency as a result of political correctness, exigencies or otherwise.

Former KPA managing director Jonathan Mturi, hailed as the man who modernised Mombasa port with former  Minister for Transport Chirau Ali MwakwerePHOTO/UGC

Time is ripe we place right people in right positions to diligently serve this nation. However, some of the previous managing directors that were well grounded in shipping and who excelled in turning around the port include James Halwenge, Jonathan Mturi, Robert Breneissen, Lenny Mwangola, Albert Mumba and Brown Ondego.

Whereas they may seem many, in actual sense they comprise a mere one third of the number of CEOs who have served a stint over the last 50 or so years. Mombasa port has a huge turnover of CEOs.

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