Why cranes worth sh2b are simply idling at the Mombasa port

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SGR gantry cranes

One of Kenya’s huge investments is wasting away as a result of mysterious malfunctioning raising eyebrows of mismanagement and wastage of public resources as economic times continue to brush hard at citizens.

Its reported that six giant cranes at the port of Mombasa acquired to improve the loading and unloading of containers on the Standard  Gauge Railway (SGR) have never worked since they bought two years ago at a cost of sh 2 billion.

The rail-mounted cranes at Port Reitz were bought by the China Road and Bridge Corporation as part of the controversial SGR operations and maintenance contract to handle cargo on the Mombasa-Nairobi SGR. However, according to sources at the port, the massive equipment malfunctioned before breaking down and being abandoned by the contractor. CRBC built and operates the Chinese-funded SGR, which is Kenya’s single largest investment.

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Investigations by a local Sunday daily reveal that the SGR operations at the port now largely depend on the rubber-tyred gantry cranes and those owned by the Kenya Ports Authority with little or no explanation on why the multi-billion-shillings investment is sitting idle.

Even more puzzling is that CRBC appears to have ignored communication from the Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) to ensure that the cranes are either replaced or put in use. Each of the cranes cost Sh 355 million, a figure that has also raised questions.

A port official who was present when the cranes were first tested, but who spoke in confidence, said they dropped the containers and appeared out of control, raising safety concerns.

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Documents seen by the local daily reveal that in December last year, KRC asked the Chinese SGR operator to ensure the six mounted cranes were in use. The Chinese appeared to have ignored the instructions prompting a letter in January this year to CRBC general manager for operation Li Jiuping with similar demands that has also not been responded to.

KRC did not immediately respond to the questions redirected to them. However, Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia admitted that the cranes have never been used due to their operational challenges, adding that the country should expect new cranes in the next few months.

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“The cranes will be replaced by CRBC. We had a meeting with them on Thursday and that was the agreement. The first two cranes are expected to be replaced in the next few weeks. I am made to understand that their shipment has already started. Eventually, we shall get new replacements for the six,” Mr Macharia told reporters.

The port agency has also distanced its self from the non-functioning cranes, saying they are just a host of the CRBC and KRC. KPA said its six Rail Mounted Gantry (RMG) Cranes manufactured in China by ZPMC Ltd are working.

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