The Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) and China¡¯s Tianjin Port have entered into a partnership to improve trade, traffic and services between the respective ports.
They will run programmes in port studies, staff training and exchange of information.
In a signed memorandum of understanding, the two port authorities said their partnership is aimed at boosting trade between Kenya and China.
KPA managing director Abdalla Mwaruwa said China was an economic powerhouse, especially in manufacturing, including production of shipping and port related cargo handling equipment that could benefit Kenya immensely.
He said markets in Europe, the Americas and Africa were now turning East, specifically China, for the supply of machinery. The Mombasa port container terminal¡¯s handling equipment was brought from Zhenhua Port Machinery Company less than two years ago.
Mwaruwa said KPA¡¯s interest in China was spurred by China¡¯s projected economic growth. According to a recent economic forecast report by the International Monetary Fund China¡¯s economic growth will reach 7.3 per cent in 2007, one of the highest rates in the world.
¡°The role of sea ports in facilitating and stimulating development cannot be underestimated. The ports of Mombasa and Tianjin have in this regard played pivotal roles in facilitating trade between the two countries,¡± said Mr Mwaruwa.
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.
Imports from China decreased from 390,000 tonnes in 2005 to 379,000 tonnes in 2006 while exports to China decreased from 24,000 tonnes in 2005 to 18,000 tonnes in 2006, Mr Mwaruwa noted.
¡°The balance of trade is in favour of China but we hope this gap will eventually be narrowed,¡± he said.
He said the MoU would enhance the catalytic role of the ports in facilitating trade and economic growth.
Tianjin Port, China¡¯s fifth largest port, is ranked 16th among the top 100 container ports in the world with a throughput of 4.8 million twenty foot equivalent units (Teu) in 2005.
This was an improvement on the previous year when it was ranked 18th as it handled 3.8 million teu. KPA, which handled only 417,000 Teu in 2005, does not feature among the top 100.
The port of Mombasa handled a total throughput of 14.42 million tonnes in 2006, as compared with 13.28 million tonnes in 2005.
KPA chairman General (Rtd) Joseph Kibwana said KPA has intensified networking and benchmarking with the best global performers. Already the port has signed up with Malaysia¡¯s Port Klang¡¯ Authority and another deal is expected with the Port of Miami.
Mr Mwaruwa said they have realised remarkable progress in the equipment replacement programme aimed at modernising and upgrading port facilities.
¡°We have also expanded the container handling yard to accommodate growing container traffic. Our security is now beefed up and more measures are being implemented to make it watertight,¡± he said.
Also present was Tianjin Port chairman Wang Ende.