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Portside Freight Terminals: The Company Owned By Joho Family Minting Billions From The Port Of Mombasa

Portside Freight Terminals Limited is a cargo services, logistics and transport company based in Mombasa. The company is owned by the family of Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho.

Portside Freight Terminals is considered one of the leading cargo services companies in the country. It has been in operation for about 16 years and has continued to offer various services to various clients across the country.

Over the years, the company has made headlines, bagging some of the most lucrative tenders dished out by the government. In some instances, the company has come under scrutiny over the nature of the tenders it has bagged, putting Joho and his family on the spot.

Portside Freight Terminals: The Company Owned By Joho Family Awarded Multi-Billion Tender To Develop Port Of Mombasa
Ali Hassan Joho Image/Courtesy


Portside Freight Terminals was incorporated in the year 2006 and is located just a kilometre from The Port of Mombasa in Shimanzi off Zanzibar Road, next to Missions or Seamen.

It focuses its expertise to Cargo services, Transportation, Warehousing services and Supply base for Oil and Gas,with fully equipped supply base.

The company owns a 90,000 sq. ft warehouse, a 165,000sq.ft transit shade (shed7/8) inside the Kilindini port which handles all types of transit and local cargo including stripping of containers and handling of local and transit motor vehicle. It boasts a one stop modern logistics centre to handle all your logistics requirements on land, sea and air .

It maintains skilled and experienced staff together with an onsite custom station and state of art equipments including CCTV monitors.

“We are dedicated in providing world class services with our indubitable experience all combined into one facility that will meet the requirements of our esteemed customers to their utmost satisfaction,” the company states on its LinkedIn page.

Multi-Billion Tenders

Over the years, the company has bagged lucrative government tenders, however, a number have been called out as suspiciously acquired.

The company which is owned by Governor Joho and his family, bagged a multi-billion tender to develop the second bulk grain handling facility at the port of Mombasa. However, the deal faces a petition filed in court by renowned activist Okiya Omtatah.

Omtatah moved to court arguing that the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) did not consider the proposals by six companies for the development of the grain handling facility. The activist said that the KPA’s decision subverted legitimate expectations of six companies that expected that their proposals would be considered.

However, KPA has since moved to court challenging the petition filed by Omtatah, arguing that Justice John Onyiego erred in finding that public interest would be well served in allegedly relying on illegally acquired evidence.

The Port authority is seeking to have the case thrown out, otherwise it will be prejudiced during the trial because it will be forced to look at and answer the same evidence that violates its constitutional rights and the law.

“The intended appeal raises substantial questions of law. They deserve input from the Court of Appeal to avoid proceeding on doubtful foundations,” KPA argued in its application.

Justice Onyiego had dismissed applications by KPA and Portside Freight Terminals Ltd, seeking to have the case struck out.

“The issues raised in the petition are weighty and of public importance, hence cannot be wished away casually; no party will suffer prejudice by the suit proceeding to full hearing,” he said.

The application will be heard May 30.

Joho’s Defence

On several occasions, Portside Freight Terminals’ has come under scrutiny amid protests of political favouritism. The firm was first given exclusive operational rights of the Nairobi Inland Cargo Terminal by the Kenya Railways Corporation. At the same time, the firm was awarded a licence by KPA to develop a second grain bulk handling facility at the Mombasa port.

The second deal has since been suspended by the High Court amid protests by the Mombasa business community.

Speaking during the 7th Annual Mombasa Business Awards 2021 on Saturday, December 4, 2021, Joho stated that his family is in business with the KPA just like any other politician or businessman in the country.

“Some say Governor Joho wants to own the port simply because my family owns some container freight stations,” he said.

“Yes, my family is in the CFS business, so as Joshua Kulei, Mohamed Jaffer, Mitchell Cotts, Gideon Moi, Compact, Sam Kairu, Feisal Abbas and many others. Unfortunately, some people only see my family,” he added.

Joho said that his family is the only ‘indigenous’ investor doing business with KPA, and questioned why he is being attacked his own people.

“I shared with the public the contract that I believed was wrongly negotiated. Only if we stood together at the point of need, will we succeed. If you allow transporters to fairly compete with the SGR, everybody will work hard to do better. Just create incentives,” he said, noting that he has always been opposed to the government’s decision to transfer cargo clearance business from Mombasa to Nairobi Inland Container Depot.

Joho’s explanation came days after investigations revealed that some of the companies landing lucrative deals with KPA are owned by prominent businessmen and politicians.

The National Assembly’s Finance, Planning and Trade Committee asked KPA to provide details of how companies operating within the port are licenced.