Fear of job losses has gripped dock workers following talk of handing over management of the second container terminal to Kenya National Shipping Line (KNSL).
Although Dock Workers Union (DWU) has written a letter to Kenya Ports Authority officials to ascertain the state of affairs, port employees are worried that there could be massive job losses should the plan see light of day, citing massive automation.
DWU general secretary Simon Sang has opposed plans to have KNSL run the facility.
According to the union, there is a plan by the Ministry of Transport to remove the management and control of the second container terminal from KPA and hand it over to KNSL.
“It is unlawful and unconventional; it has never happened anywhere in the world. KPA is a public entity, when you want to transfer it to another hand you need a legislation and consent from parliament,” Mr Sang said.
Workers at the giant parastatal in Mombasa now want Transport and Infrastructure CS James Macharia to address the uncertainties.
Mr Sang said if KNSL is allowed to run the terminal, 60 per cent of jobs will be lost. “That is the implication of transferring the management and control of the second container terminal from KPA to KNSL. The jobs will be lost because they will be automated,” he said.
DWU has also written to KPA officials to discuss the urgent matter.
“We will have the meeting on January 9 to address the thorny issue. KNSL does not have the capacity nor the knowledge and experience to run a container terminal, which is critical because it would double the capacity of the port to allow larger container vessels to dock and create jobs,” Mr Sang said.
“The plans are at an advanced stage but KNSL lacks legal backing. This proposal therefore should be reconsidered. In fact, Section 16 of the Merchant Shipping Act disallows shipping companies to operate port terminals,” Mr Sang said.
Speaking during an interview with Nation in Mombasa, the unionist said the proposal should be reconsidered. “Best practice demands that ports, if need be, can be reformed with the objective of making them to efficiently run through known management models,” he added.
Mr Sang said KNSL running a container terminal may be complicated and the arrangement very uncommon. “And if tried in Kenya, it is very unlikely to sail through in the National Assembly... it would amount to transferring functions of an existing arrangement to a stranger and massive job losses.”