Web Alert: Shallow water berths and draft discharge surveys at Mombasa, Kenya

News & Insights 16 September 2013


The owners of the vessels that call at Mombasa, Kenya to discharge cargo, should be aware of the shallow water berths in the area, before fixing the terms of the charter party for such voyage.

The owners of the vessels that call at Mombasa, Kenya to discharge cargo, should be aware of the shallow water berths in the area, before fixing the terms of the charter party for such voyage. In particular, some berths may have a maximum depth of 9.75m at Low Water (Spring Tide) and vessels with a draft of say 10.30m should only berth with the rising tide, in order to be able to carry out an accurate draft survey and to subsequently be securely moored alongside. However, berthing delays occur frequently and some vessels miss the high tide. The Pilots, with a view to minimising such delays and increasing the number of the vessels that the port can serve, often disregard the small difference between the draft of the vessel and the draft of the berth. As a result, a number of groundings and inaccurate draft surveys have been recorded at Mombasa.

The Club correspondent has advised that there have been a number of bulk carriers in the past which have touched bottom and have taken heavy lists alongside the berths. As a consequence, the use of the large Yokohama fenders was initiated, in order to keep the vessels away from the berth, by about 2m in order to avoid groundings. Nevertheless, the daily cost of these fenders is excessive. The Club correspondent furthermore referred to a particular grounding of a fully laden tanker, attributed to the Pilot’s negligence, which caused significant damage to her hull. The vessel started listing in the middle of the entrance channel, but luckily, she was a double hull and by filling ballast on the high side, she regained upright position. However, according to the Kenya Port Authority (KPA), the port authority cannot be sued for the mistakes of their Pilots.

In light of the above, the owners should be wary when negotiating a charter party with a view to call for discharge at Mombasa and ensure that all provisions protecting their interests against any loss, damage or liability at this port have been taken into consideration. Furthermore, owners may consider clarifying in the terms of the charter that should the need for use of large Yokohama fenders arise, it should be for charterers’ account. Advice from the Club in respect of the particular wording to be used for the above matter may well be sought if required. Finally, the Masters of the vessels should be alerted on this matter, in order to always insist that their vessels can go alongside specific berths at Mombasa, only with the rising tide.

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