•Clearing and forwarding agents this week protested the charges which would have seen cargo owners part with between Sh8,000 and Sh20,000 as verification fee.
•Cargo verification comes on the request of state agencies such as KRA and Kebs which verify cargo suspected to contain contraband, mis-declared or under-declared goods.
Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) has suspended container verification charges introduced this week, ending a stand-off with clearing and forwarding firms.
Clearing and forwarding agents protested the charges which would have seen cargo owners part with $120 ( about Sh 12,000) verification fee on a twenty-foot container and between $160 (Sh16,000) and $200 (Sh20,000) for 40-foot containers.
“KPA suspended the verification charges yesterday,” KPA head of corporate affairs Bernard Osero told the Star on Friday.
This now paves way for consultations on the charges which previously applied at Container Freight Stations(CFSs).
The Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association (KIFWA) on Monday had accused KPA of acting in a rush to introduce the charges, which amounted to high cost of doing business.
Kifwa national chairman Roy Mwanthi said the ports authority should consult members and issue a 30-day notice before effecting the charges.
“We need the notice published in newspapers so that our members and the public are aware of the plan to introduce charges for verification. You cannot just wake up and impose charges,” Mwanthi told the Star.
Clearing agents at the Inland Container Deport-Nairobi downed tools on Monday and Tuesday over the charges, slowing down cargo clearance at the facility.
The Shippers Council of Eastern Africa(SCEA) joined the protests, writing to KPA managing director Daniel Manduku expressing displeasure in the manner in which the directive was issued, without consultation and notice to stakeholders.
“The introduction of verification fee is not only uncalled for but not practical,” SCEA chief executive Gilbert Langat had said.
KPA had contracted Mercantile Cargo Terminal Operations Limited to provide container stripping services during verification.
According to KPA, the verification fee is not a new charge as it existed when CFSs were in full operation.
Cargo verification comes on the request of state agencies such as Kenya Revenue Authority and Kenya Bureau of Standards, which verify cargo suspected to contain contraband, mis-declared goods or under-declared goods.
Cargo owners meet the cost.
“Verification is 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,” KPA indicates.
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 200 to 300 containers are verified everyday.
“It depends with the government agencies. It can be more or less,” Peter Masinde, KPA manager in- charge of the Inland Container Deport-Nairobi notes.
Among most verified is consolidated cargo where an assortment of goods are packed in one container for shipment.
Unscrupulous traders have been using the model to stash contrabands or mis-declare goods, a common way of evading the rightful taxes payable on certain goods.
While Kebs has contracted independent firms to conduct pre-export verification, where certificates of conformity to standards are issued at the point of origin, suspicious cargo is subjected to full verification.