The Port of Mombasa is to be decongested in 100 days to prevent Kenya from losing more port business to Tanzania, the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) announced on Tuesday.
The decongestion process will be launched on Wednesday and will run for 100 days in what is known as Rapid Results Initiative.
“We have finalized all the preparations for the decongestion and all the players know exactly what they are expected to do within those days,” said KRA’s Commissioner of Customs Services Wambui Namu.
The decongestion will involve opening new additional lanes by the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) to ease movement of containers in and out of the port. KRA will also do a joint verification of cargo with all other government agencies supposed to verify cargo in order to lessen the time spent on cargo inspection, said Namu.
KRA has also instructed the private sector players to ensure that they honor the 24 hour operational schedule put in place at the port.
“We have agreed that traders should not hold their cargo at the port for more than 48 hours otherwise it will start attracting penalties,” Namu told journalists at the KRA in Nairobi. Importers are also expected to declare their vessels early enough to ensure that measures of clearing the vessel are put in place as fast as possible, she said.
The congestion is blamed on traders who decline to clear their cargo in December festive season because of the volatility of the shilling.
They held the cargo to speculate against on the shilling, essentially waiting for shilling to lose ground against the dollar further so that they could get more profits, said KRA Commissioner General Michael Waweru.
As a result, more than 5,900 containers are yet to be cleared at the moment but KRA said it will decongest the port by the end of those 100 days.
There has however been controversy on the real cause of congestion at the port with sections of traders blaming the KPA of inefficiency and also the limited capacity of the port authority to handle high cargo volume. “There is no adequate space for KPA equipment to work efficiently,” said Sam Machio, the Secretary General of Kenya Transporters Association, the umbrella body for long haul truck operators and owners.
The congestion at the Port of Mombasa has made some countries like Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo to shift some of their imports and exports to the Port of Dar as Salaam in Tanzania, making Kenya lose revenue.
The congestion has mostly affected exporters of tea, one of the Kenya’s top foreign exchange earner, according to the East African Tea Trade Association chairman Peter Kimanga. “Most tea that was brought into the port in December has not even been exported because ships can neither load nor offload as there is not space to keep the cargo,” he said.
Ships have also been forced to stay longer in the high seas to wait for free berths that they can dock for loading or offloading, incurring additional delay costs to the ship owners. Xinhua