Container traffic through Kenya’s main port, serving several countries in the region, grew by 12 percent in 2010 on the back of a resurgent global economy, its operator said.

Traffic through Mombasa port is watched as an indicator of activity in the region’s economies. Apart from Kenya, it handles cargo to and from Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia.

The facility handled 695,600 20-foot equivalent container units (TEU), up from 618,816 in 2009 and way above its designed capacity of 250,000 TEU a year, Gichiri Ndua, Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) managing director, said in a report seen by Reuters.

By weight, the container terminal handled 18.93 million tonnes, down from 19.06 million. “The decline was mainly attributed to reduction in relief-related imports as a result of improved food production,” Ndua said.

Transit traffic—destined for countries other than Kenya—rose 0.4 million tonnes to 5.3 million in 2010. KPA said Uganda took up 79 percent of the transit cargo.

Ndua said productivity at the port improved in 2010 with the average container dwell time declining to 5.7 days from six days.

“Ship turnaround time, however, increased to four days from 3.6 days due to ongoing rehabilitation of berths .... and the increased number of bigger container vessels served at the terminal,” he said.

“As the global economy recovers, the regional economies and trade are similarly expected to grow. This calls for measures to improve capacity, enhance cargo off-take and ensure seamless movement of cargo in the hinterland,” Ndua said.

Ndua said detailed designs and pre-qualification of firms to construct a second container terminal had been completed, with construction of the first phase expected to be done by 2015.

KPA also hopes to dredge the port to a deeper 15 metres from 13 metres to enable bigger ships to berth.

Zambia, Ethiopia and Malawi are also considering using Mombasa as a gateway for some overseas markets, the report said. (Reuters)