The Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) has not been able to implement presidential order directing it to clear Nairobi-bound cargo at the port.
According to Kenya International Forwarding and Warehousing Association Chairman Roy Mwanthi, KPA has not issued any communication to shipping lines to inform importers to use Mombasa as their clearing point. The shipping lines use Through Bill of Lading (TBL) which identifies Nairobi Inland Container Depot as the destination.
Port officials said that the presidential directive will be implemented only and that there are guidelines that will be developed to actualize the order.
There are, however, some challenges that KPA must circumvent to be able to implement the order. In the last five years, the government has focused all its attention on infrastructure projects at ICD in Nairobi and Naivasha, including the establishment of smart gates at Athi River to allow seamless flow of cargo.
There are questions that are being raised on whether KPA in Mombasa will be able to evacuate all Nairobi-bound containerized cargo considering that the volumes have been growing by about 10 percent every year.
KPA cargo handling capacity is very limited and it inevitably needs Container Freight Stations (CFSs), most of which have scaled-down investments and operations in the last few years after the cargo handling operations were shifted to Nairobi.
The few that remained active have been handling Mombasa-based cargo that is less than 10 percent of the total port volumes. Others followed the cargo and established bases in Nairobi.
CFSs held more containers than the port. Indeed, if the 21,830 Twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) handled by CFSs were to be dumped in the port yard, one would not get a place to step in at the terminal, Mr. Gichiri Ndua, former KPA Managing Director, observed in a study of the future of the CFS in the wake of the SGR done in 2017.
Stakeholders are now asking the government to allow the importers a choice of either using road or rail transport. They argue that relocating to Mombasa for those already in Nairobi may turn out to be costly and that new jobs will still be lost.
The writer is an editorial consultant and can be reached at email@example.com