BY MANSUR KAKIMBA
MOMBASA — The Kenya Port Authority (KPA) will open a Kigali liaison office to position itself to be a leading cargo handling agency in the Great Lakes Region and bring services closer to customers.
“Indeed, KPA is targeting opening a liaison office in a few months time, perhaps August during the forthcoming annual Rwandan Expo,” said J.N Imathiu, KPA’s Publicist.
A.H. Mwaruwa, KPA’s managing director, said the increasing volume of cargo to and from Rwanda handled by the port justifies extending services to Kigali.
Private Sector Federation’s Emmanuel Hategeka said over 65 per cent of Rwanda’s imports and exports go through the Mombasa port. “Operations of Mombassa port are thus of great concern to Rwanda, especially the private sector,” he said while in Mombasa on a courtesy visit. The team was carrying out an independent survey on non tariff barriers (NTBs) along the Northern Corridor.
Data from KPA indicates that between 2002 and 2006, the volumes of Rwanda’s cargo handled at Mombasa Port significantly increased from 8,822 tonnes to 253,113 tonnes. The trend is likely to continue, because about 104,436 tonnes of Rwanda’s cargo was handled between January and May this year.
Hategeka noted there is a need to quickly solve the region’s trade challenges with Rwanda and Burundi joining the East Africa Community (EAC). Some of those challenges include Non Tariff Barriers (NTBs) along the Northern Corridor.
Cracking trade barriers
Hategeka noted that NTBs are hindrances to cross border trade other than the legitimate customs tariffs. Adding that a similar survey will be carried out along the Southern Corridor and a joint report will be compiled.
“The report will be used to push concerned stakeholders especially governments for sustainable solutions,” he said.
Among the NTBs the PSF delegation discovered along the Northern Corridor are: delays caused by uncompetitive port services and facilities; delays caused by unnecessary road blocks, numerous weighbridges and parking yards; roads that are almost impassable during heavy rains; un-harmornised and exorbitant tariffs; road use charges and road licences.
KPA slowing business
By coincidence, PSF Rwanda visited Kenya when most NTBs along the Northern Corridor were high on the agenda at a KPA weekly stakeholders’ meeting.
During the meeting, stakeholders including business associations and parastatals blamed the KPA for uncompetitive port services, delays, and high charges.
But Mwaruwa said there were reasons for the charges.
“People mistake all port charges to be entirely by KPA’s, yet there are several entities operating from within and outside the port with different [charges],” he said. “In fact, since 1995, we have maintained the same charges.”
KPA charges about $220 (about Frw121,000) handling for a local container, and $240 (about Frw132,000) handling for a transit container.
Mwaruwa said delays are mainly caused by container owners, who take ages to pick up their cargo. The laws allow an importer 21days to clear their goods. Thereafter, they are charged per day. He said charging importers as a penalty has been ineffective and this has still caused congestion at the port. Then stakeholders proposed that to decongest the port, the KPA should consider auctioning the containers as soon as the 21days expire.
Hategeka said it costs about $1,500 (about Frw840,000) to transport a container from Europe or Asia to Durban, Mombasa, or Dar es Salaam, which are thousands of miles away. But he said it costs over $4,500 (Frw2.5 million) to transport the same container from Mombasa to Kigali.
John Baptist Gasangwa, Rwanda ‘s representative at the KPA stakeholders’ meeting, said bribes given to traffic policemen and weighbridge operators escalate transport costs. John Bosco Kalisa, Director of Trade and Regional Integration, added that such NTBs escalate transport costs by over 30 per cent.
Police ‘road tolls’
Although the Kenyan police representative at the meeting insisted that corruption and highway robbery are gradually declining, participants mocked him.
“The situation has instead worsened. There are tens of police roadblocks along the Northern Corridor in Kenya that have turned into ‘road tolls’ instead,” observed one bold participant.
The PSF delegation completed its trip by visiting the Northern Corridor Transit Transport Coordination Authority. Godfrey Matata Onyango, its executive secretary, said there are a number of good projects in the pipeline to improve the Northern Corridor, but finances are posing challenges to their execution. He called on the PSF to cooperate.