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Mombasa Port

The port in Kenya's coastal city of Mombasa serves neighbouring landlocked countries like South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mombasa has played an important part in the development of not only Kenya but East Africa in general in many roles: an entrepot, a commercial centre, a revolutionary town, a vanquished and martyr town, and as it is today, an international port and tourist resort.

China helped with its 19th berth expansion project which significantly improved the port's operational efficiency. Together with the under constructing Standard Gauge Railway which will connect Mombasa Port with Kenya's capital Nairobi, the port will help develop the economy of this country as well as the whole East Africa.

Major export processing zones in Kenya are owned by Chinese companies and are located near the port of Mombasa for ease of transport. Imports from China to the region through the Mombasa port include industrial goods notably, motor vehicle accessories, electronic goods textiles and footwear. Kenya’s main exports to China are agro-based products, among them tea, tobacco and fish.

The Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) is likely to boost Kenya's coastal tourism that has been hit by insecurity fears. The new railway, known as the Kenyan SGR, started cargo and passenger services in June 2017 in ceremonies attended by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Chinese State Councilor Wang Yong, the special envoy of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Besides reducing the cost of ferrying goods from the port of Mombasa to the hinterlands, the SGR cargo train will drastically reduce congestion in the highways and the environmental pollution. Once the 480 km railway that links the port of Mombasa and Nairobi is operational, the number of both foreign and local tourists visiting Mombasa is likely to increase. Tourist arrivals in Mombasa, have also been affected by connectivity issues with Nairobi due to the high cost of flying, and insufficient and irregular road transport due to the poor state of roads.

Mombasa District fronts the Indian Ocean and is one of the districts of Kenya's Coast Province. With an area of 275 km2 it is the smallest district in the country. This area includes the island of Mombasa (Mombasa proper) and a crescent shaped portion of the mainland around the island. It forms a wedge between Kwale District in the south and west, and Kilifi District in the north. Kenya's second largest city, the ancient Muslim Indian Ocean port of Mombasa, serving Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Zaïre, is one of the most important platform in the Eastern Africa but it is not equipped enough for large traffic. Therefore a rehabilitation program is being undertaken.

Kenya enjoys an extensive, if deteriorating, infrastructure, a generally well-educated population and a strong entrepreneurial tradition. Mombasa is the best and most important deep-water port in the region, despite deteriorating equipment and problems with inefficiency and corruption. Nairobi and Mombasa, Kenya's main trading cities, have sufficiently large warehousing facilities. Most of the warehouses are for private warehousing; however, some specialized ones provide bonded warehousing services.

The Port of Mombasa, with a rated annual capacity of 22 million tons, is Kenya's main seaport and serves most East and Central African countries. It is a deep-water port with 21 berths, two bulk oil jetties and dry bulk wharves that can handle all size ships. The port offers specialized facilities, including cold storage, warehousing, and container terminal. It serves most international shipping lines and has an average annual freight throughput of about 8.1 million tons, of which 72 percent are imports.

Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) manages the port operations. There are plans to replace or refurbish some of the equipment at the port. A private international firm has been contracted to manage and operate the container terminal in Mombasa. Inland container depots, managed by KPA, exist in Nairobi, Eldoret, and Kisumu.

Corruption is pervasive in most sectors, particularly in government procurement and dispute settlement. A police unit was recently established at the Kenya Revenue Authority to tackle tax evaders, including scandals involving duty evasion at the Port of Mombasa.

Uganda's most troublesome infrastructure problems lies in Kenya - the corrupt and inefficient port of Mombasa and the poor condition of the road between Mombasa and Kampala. The vast majority of Uganda's exports and imports travel through this port and road. Generally, transporting a container of goods between Mombasa and Kampala will take twice the time and expense as transporting that same container between London and Mombasa.

Kenya has a reasonably well-developed international and domestic air transport infrastructure. The country has three international airports: Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), Mombasa's Moi International Airport and Eldoret International Airport which became operational in April 1997.

Mombasa town has been in existence for many centuries, even though no recorded information about its early history can be found. The early history of Mombasa, as of other coastal settlements, can only be gleaned from Arabic and Portuguese records, oral poetry and archaelogical studies. Historical events become clearer in and after the fifteenth century. Since then Oman Arabs, the Portuguese, the British and finally the Kenyans have in turns held dominion over Mombasa and the coastal lands. During these eras Mombasa town has experienced retribution, political and commercial intrigue,and prosperity.

In the thirteenth century a general expansion of Moslems in the Indian Ocean region resulted in the founding of many towns on the coast of East Africa, with many immigrants from the Asian continent making homes here. From the fourteenth century until recently the Kings and merchants of the coastal lands were devout Moslems, and the dominant culture was Arabic, including elements of Persian, Indian and Chinese ornaments.

Between the fourteenth and the sixteenth century Mombasa and the coastal lands enjoyed great pious living and commercial prosperity based on African resources such as slaves, ambergris and ivory.

In the early sixteenth century the peace of the coast came to a sudden end with the advent of the Portuguese, who under the spur of Prince Henry the Navigator reached East Africa via the Cape of Good Hupe in search of gold and spices and a r.oute to India. Mombasa was stormed by Dom Francisco de Almeida avd suffered great trauma. Before it could recover the town was again attacked and burnt down by the Portuguese in 1528.

The image of the Portuguese in Mombasa is of vehement subjugation and an u-friendly, indifferent-rule, marked with ruthless retributive acts. Anxious for their own aecurity the Portuguese embarked on the building of Fort Jesus and a tax was imposed on Mombasa and other coastal towns for the project.

The Portuguese era ended with their defeat by the Arabs at the end of the 17th Centruy. Once again life and power were completely Arabic and centred on Muscat in Oman. Muscat soldiers could be seen in Mombasa. Soon, however, rivalry started between ambitious local groups of Arabs, culminating in a balance of local power between Mombasa and Pate Island in the north.

Meanwhile the British started influencing Seyyid Said, the Sultan of Oman et Muscat. In 1840s Seyyid Said moved his capital from Muscat to Zanzibar. Sultans of Zanzibar after Seyyid Said were easily influenced by the British. In 1890 the Imperial British East Africa Company had an office at Zanzibar.

The European powers had entered into a scramble for Africa which led to the partition of the Sultan's dominion. The British created their own British East Africa protectorate, followed by the declaration of the Kenya British Colony in 1920. After that event the Sultan of Zanzibar retained sovereign rights over a ten mile strip of the coastland of Kenya which included the present Mombasa District. This domain of the Sultan on Kenyan mainland ceased in 1963.

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Page last modified: 31-07-2017 10:32:10 ZULU