Cargo airlines shun Eldoret

Tons of flowers worth millions of shillings destined for export are lying at the Eldoret Airport for lack of cargo flights to airlift them to the international markets.

The crisis follows the discontinuation of international cargo flights to the town because of the post-election violence that rocked the region.

Transport Permanent Secretary Gerrishon Ikiara said the airport, which had recorded an increased number of flights before last year’s general election, has been adversely hit due to the crisis.

He said although there was a big demand for flowers from Eldoret, most airlines had shunned the route due to insecurity. He added that importers were now relying on flowers from Naivasha.

“Cargo airlines to Eldoret are affected after the main international airlines stopped operating there. We are, however, trying to convince them to return,” said Ikiara.

“They are fearing that their cargo will not be safe. And even if they brought in luggage, they are not sure whether they will reach the destination because of the chaos,” he added.

“After major charter flights to the airport stopped operating, others also followed. First, it was scheduled airlines then charter flights also stopped,” he added.

He said other passenger flights flying other routes are faced with similar challenges.

They include Kisumu, Mombasa, Malindi, Lamu and Masai Mara.

“Most airlines are unable to operate to capacity, especially those relying on tourists.

Meanwhile, Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) and Rift Valley Railways have started a shuttle train service between Mombasa and Nairobi to decongest the port.

The service, which starts on Saturday, is aimed at moving some containers destined to Nairobi, western Kenya and beyond to the more spacious KPA Nairobi-based inland container deport.

KPA harbor master and chief operations manager, Captain Twalib Khamis said the port had a total of 17,000 TEUs -twenty foot equivalent units- a number that was constraining operational efficiency.

Port operations were negatively affected by the post-election chaos that interfered with the transport system including railway operations to western Kenya and Uganda.

“With the co-operation of all stakeholders, the port is delivering an average of 800 containers daily on a 24 hour basis,” said Khamis in a statement. “This is up from 30 containers per day immediately after elections.” He said 16 vessels had docked at the port and five were waiting.

He revealed that the eight day waiver given by KPA to compensate for lost working days during long election holidays, have elicited good response and a lot of cargo have been collected.

Khamis confirmed that the port had temporarily stopped handling transit cargo for Tanzania and instead asked shippers to take the cargo directly.