The Dock Workers Union has gone to the High Court, challenging a decision by Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) to give a private firm exclusive rights to manage and run two sheds at Mombasa port.
The union argues that in making the decision to lease the sheds to Portside Freight Terminals Ltd, a company owned by Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho’s family, KPA failed to appreciate that transit sheds are an integral part of port infrastructure that enables it to function as a harbour.
“Leasing out the facilities without complying with the law and the Constitution is impunity,” the union says in the court papers.
It adds that the sheds are part of the infrastructure of the port and help in operating and handling cargo efficiently.
“The ignorance of KPA to the importance of this facility cannot be allowed by those who care and have public interest at heart,” the union argues.
“KPA has acted unlawfully by allowing Portside Freight Terminals Ltd to own the sheds, provide warehousing, offload and load ships at the port”
The union says that as a result of the lease, Portside Freight Terminals Ltd has installed massive handling equipment at the port and that the company is now handling bulk cargo.
It adds that the implication is that the firm has taken over the statutory functions of KPA.
“The respondent is in a deliberate mode to place the lives of employees and other port users in danger when it decides to contract out its primary functions to individuals that are not ready to observe safety,” the union adds.
It says in not complying with the law when leasing the sheds, KPA proceeded to contract labour to Mercantile Cargo Terminal Operations Ltd, to conduct cargo verification.
It says Mercantile Cargo will be levying $80 and $120 for 20ft and 40 ft containers respectively but information, capital and human resources shall still be supplied by the public through KPA’s infrastructure, equipment and labour.
According to the union, there are no justifiable reasons for KPA to procure the lease and contract of services from Portside Freight Terminals and Mercantile Cargo Terminal Operations Ltd.
The union seeks a declaration that KPA has no power and authority to alter the organisation or to reorganise itself to an extent of causing substantial joblessness. It also wants the court to declare the leases unlawful.