KENYA – The maritime sector in Kenya is grappling with the aftermath of disruptions caused by Yemeni rebels, resulting in a shortage of refrigerated containers (reefers) and logistical challenges for avocado and other fresh produce exports.

According to a recent report by Daily Nation, the situation, attributed to missile attacks by Houthi rebels in Yemen, has compelled global shipping lines to divert their vessels away from the Red Sea route, a critical artery for voyages to Mombasa and the East African coastline.

Consequently, this redirection has led to longer cargo delivery times, exacerbating losses for dealers and farmers alike.

Haji Mwinyi, a Mombasa-based clearing and forwarding agent, shed light on the severity of the situation, stating, “With no indication of when the shortage of reefers will be resolved, this spells a very difficult time for the maritime sector.”

Acknowledging the predicament, Maersk, a prominent shipping line handling over 80% of Kenyan fresh produce exports, has confirmed the delays.

Despite assuring clients of improvements in supply chain operations from April onwards, Maersk emphasized the challenges posed by the crisis in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea.

The ramifications of the disruptions are far-reaching, with some companies opting to suspend operations entirely, resulting in a disruption of the supply chain.

Fresh produce dealers find themselves at the forefront of these challenges, contending with delayed export schedules and an uncertain outlook for the upcoming season.

Avocado exporters have been severely impacted, with disruptions affecting scheduled export dates. The suspension of harvesting activities further compounds the situation, as exporters grapple with uncertainty surrounding the availability of reefers.

Agayo Ogambi, the Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Shippers Council of Eastern Africa (SCEA), underscored the gravity of the situation, highlighting the urgent need for exporters to plan accordingly amidst the shortage of reefers.

In response to these challenges, Maersk has advised exporters to work closely with their customer service partners to verify equipment availability before proceeding with bookings and harvesting activities for March departures.

This proactive approach aims to mitigate disruption and streamline processes in the face of prevailing uncertainties.

The disruptions in the maritime sector underscore the need for resilience and adaptability in navigating the complexities of global trade.

As stakeholders collaborate to address these challenges, the focus remains on ensuring the continuity of supply chains and minimizing the impact on local economies.

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