• Cargo verification comes on the request of state agencies such as Kenya Revenue Authority and Kebs.
•KPA will be collecting $80 as verification fee for a 20-foot container. A 40-foot container will attract a fee of $120.
The Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) has re-introduced verification charges for containers, targeted at imports coming into the country.
Effective Tuesday, April 21, KPA will be collecting $80 (about Sh8,530) as verification fee for a 20-foot container.
A 40-foot container will attract a fee of $120(about Sh12,795).
“In an effort to increase the efficiency of cargo verification process arising from Customs and Kebs (Kenya Bureau of Standards) inspection, Kenya Ports Authority has outsourced labour for this purpose to ensure a reliable and steady supply of labour,” Peter Masinde, head of Inland Container Deport, says in a customer notice.
Payment charges will be secured by KPA to enhance transparency in raising of bills, Masinde notes.
“KPA is committed and endeavours to exceed customer expectations by providing excellent services,” Masinde has told port stakeholders.
Cargo verification comes on the request of state agencies such as Kenya Revenue Authority and Kebs, which verify cargo suspected to contain contraband, misdeclared goods or under-declared goods.
A shipper or importer can also request for verification to ascertain contents of a container.
The move now paves way for a fresh battle between cargo handlers and KPA, which could lead to cargo pile-up as clearing agents and shippers remain opposed to the fees.
KPA had attempted to introduce the charges in February before suspending it to pave way for consultations.
It had contracted Mercantile Cargo Terminal Operations Limited to provide container stripping services during verification.
On February 18, more than 600 clearing and forwarding firms, majority operating at the Inland Container Depot-Nairobi(ICDN) paralysed operations at the KPA's Embakasi facility, causing a cargo clearance backlog.
The Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association (KIFWA) and the Shippers Council of Eastern Africa(SCEA) have remained opposed to the charges.
Introduction of the fee raises questions over the cost of doing business and who should bear the cost of verification when requested by state agencies.
In 2013, KPA had asked Container Freight Stations(CFSs) to stop levying verification charges on import containers contrary to KPA tariff.
“All CFS operators are instructed to immediately stop levying verification, scanning, inspection, stripping or stuffing charges when these services have not been requested by clients,” KPA had written to the CSF association.
It directed a refund on verification charges “irregularly collected” by CFSs.
CFS association went to court seeking to quash KPA directive where Kifwa, KRA and Kenya Maritime Authority were interested parties.
In a judicial review application number 19 of 2013, the court barred CFSs from charging verification fees when requested by KRA.
Kifwa yesterday said verification fees have previously been part of KPA's cargo handling charges and were only payable by customers when they have requested for the exercise.
“This means when KRA or any other agency requests for verification, the customer should not pay,” Kifwa national chairman Roy Mwanthi told the Star.
In a quick rejoinder, the Shippers Council of Eastern Africa said it is not opposed to the charges if only the service is being provided on the request of the shipper, and not government agencies.
“KPA tariff has a component on handling which includes the verification charges,” SCEA chief executive Gilbert Langat told the Star.
Clearing and forwarding firms had in February vowed to ground port operations if KPA fails to revoke the verification fee.
KPA head of corporate affairs Bernard Osero told the Star verification was not a KPA role.
“What we do is provide space, facility and labour. And this is not a new thing, only that we have moved verification from CFSs to KPA facilities,” Osero said.
KRA, Kebs and other government agencies traditionally call for full verification after suspicious results during scanning.
Importers with history of contrabands also have their containers stripped to curb tax evasion and illegal imports.
According to KPA, an average of 200 to 300 containers are verified every day.
“It depends on government agencies. It can be more or less,” Masinde said.