Mombasa cruise traffic falls as terminal delays

Wednesday March 18 2020

A cruise ship at the port of Mombasa last year. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The cruise traffic to the county last year fell, with only four vessels docking at the Mombasa port, even as the government announced a third delay in the completion of a Sh350 million cruise ship terminal.

According to the 2018 port performance data for the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), the country received 2,333 cruise passengers last year, a marginal drop from 2,342 the previous year.

The traffic has been on a low, from a high of 5,072 passengers on six vessels in 2015, before dropping to 2,298 a year later after a series of travel advisories, and terror incidence on the coast.

Last week, it emerged that the construction of the Sh350 million terminal was initially set to be completed in August this year has been pushed to November.

The works are at 40 percent.

“The terminal is currently 40 per cent complete and will further boost cruise tourism when it is fully operational by November this year,” Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary (CS) Najib Balala, said during President Uhuru Kenyatta’s inspection of the construction at the port of Mombasa.

The works on cruise terminal, which began in December 2016, was expected to be completed in August 2017, but was pushed to 2018 then later this year “due of unavoidable circumstances.”

In 2017, Mr Balala blamed the contractor for the delays, saying the government had laid a strategy in developing cruise ship tourism.

“I am disappointed and this is not acceptable, because the schedule was supposed to be August 2017; it did not take place, it was moved to November and then I am told it is being moved to August (2018),” Mr Balala then said

Terror attacks

In February, the sector suffered a blow when the country lost estimated 2,000 tourists in two cruise ships destined for the Port of Mombasa getting diverted to other destinations following a security alert raised by the US government, on the aftermath of the Dusit Hotel terror attacks in Nairobi.

Terrorists killed 21 people in the Dusit attack, but security response was hailed as one of the best.

The US government had issued an alert that Westerners might be targeted by extremists in Nairobi, Naivasha, Nanyuki and the coastal areas.

It cautioned its citizens in Kenya to be careful about terror threats when visiting parts of the country.

Mr Balala said two cruise ships operated by Oceania Cruises were to dock at the Port of Mombasa between February 3; another was expected by the end of March, but they were diverted following the caution.

“But I have raised these issues with the Foreign Affairs and I am disappointed with the US embassy because they have blown the situation out of control; it has scared two of our cruise ships to divert to other destinations,” Mr Balala said then.