East Africa: Kenyan Cargo Firms Stop South Sudan Operations Over Security Concerns

The military clash in South Sudan has hit a number of Kenya-based cargo firms, forcing them to suspend their operations to the world’s youngest nation.

A day after RwandAir and Kenya Airways and announced cancellation of its flights to Juba, Astral Aviation and Siginon have both suspended their operations to South Sudan citing concerns over safety of their staff.

Astral operates three weekly flights to Juba while Siginon has a number of trucks that transport cargo by road to South Sudan.

Astral chief executive officer Sunjeev Gadhia said they cancelled operation on Sunday after the airport in Juba was closed but anticipated that they would resume flights today depending on the security situation.

“We had to suspend our cargo flights to Juba because of the ongoing war between the two factions that led to closure of the airport in Juba,” said Mr Gadhia.

He said that they started evacuation of passengers from Juba to Nairobi on Tuesday.

South Sudan envoy to Kenya Chol Ajongo said that the airport was reopened yesterday, allowing aircraft to fly in and out of the facility.

Mr Gadhia noted that the war in South Sudan and the subsequent closure of the airport had created a backlog of 100 tonnes of cargo as of yesterday. The firm normally ferries 50 tonnes of cargo in a week.

Meshack Kipturgo, the managing director of Siginon Group said shippers had started cancelling transportation of their goods to the war-torn State.

“Customers who regularly send goods to South Sudan have stopped following the ongoing unrest in the country with some of them cancelling the orders,” said Mr Kipturgo.

He added that trucks that were already on transit to South Sudan had stopped their journey and that further loading of cargo destined to the country halted.

Kenya Airways, which operates two flights a day to Juba, on Sunday announced the suspension of flights citing “an uncertain security situation.” It gave similar reasons, yesterday adding that it was monitoring the situation.

Fly 540, the Kenyan budget airline, also with two daily flights to Juba, said it had indefinitely stopped operations pending improvement in the security situation.

“We have suspended flights since Saturday. We are monitoring the situation through various agencies. We will resume operations if and when the security situation reverts to normal,” Fly 540’s operations director Nixon Ooko said.

South Sudan had become a lucrative destination, especially for logistics firms which have been tapping on the opportunity to enhance their earnings.

Astral Aviation fleet in Nairobi hub consists of four cargo planes, Fokker 27, DC9, B727 and B747.

The company is hoping to grow its revenue by tapping growth opportunities in the market.

The company flies to over 50 destinations and earns revenue by charging for chartered and scheduled flights. It also gets allowance for handling dangerous and sensitive goods.

Fighting broke out in Juba last week between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and those aligned to his deputy, Dr Riek Machar.

The fighting flared up again Sunday spreading to areas close to the UN compound after a lull on Saturday when the country celebrated the fifth independence anniversary.

Source: The East African