Border delays choking ports –survey

Cargo volumes at the Port of Mombasa have remained high.

In Summary

•43 per cent of global ports face delays in cross-border trucking activities

•Mombasa–Kampala turnaround time has increased to an average 10 days from  four days, raising the cost of transportation and threatening to cause congestion at the Port.

Containers stacked at the Port of Mombasa's Second Container Terminal./
Containers stacked at the Port of Mombasa's Second Container Terminal./

Border checks,  fewer truck drivers and disruptions in container terminal operations could lead to cargo pile-ups at ports and warehouses, a global survey has noted.

The report shows that while global ship movements remain stable despite supply chain disruptions by the coronavirus pandemic, delays at border points have however affected truck turn-around times.

According to the 'Covid-19 Port Economic Impact Barometer' by the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH), 22 per cent of ports have reported delays of six to 24 hours in cross-border road transportation, with some reporting total discontinuation of movement.


The survey targeted 273 ports from Africa, North America, Central, and South America, Middle East, Central Asia, North Asia, South East Asia, Australasia, and Europe. Kenya's Port of Mombasa is a member of the association.

“Overall, 43 per cent of respondents face delays in cross-border trucking activities,” the report released by IAPH managing director-policy and strategy Patrick Verhoeven says.

For trucks arriving or leaving the port, this figure amounts to 39 per cent, rather evenly split between minor delays (less than six hours) and more severe disruptions.

The survey shows overall port cargo volumes remain steady with some dips, and significantly reduced passenger and cruise vessel calls.

“Dockworker availability has been impacted but not hampering operations whereas some ports report cargo build-up and congestion at warehouses,” the survey states.

The survey mirrors development at the Port of Mombasa and transport along the Northern Corridor, the main transit route to the hinterland, where Kenya Ports Authority(KPA) has reported steady cargo volumes and ship arrivals amid border delays.

The latest KPA data shows 31 vessels called at the port in the last one week (April 28) bringing in a total of 212,887 tonnes of both bulk and containerised goods, mainly bulk wheat, sea salt, steel and fertilizer.


During the week, a total of 2,113 motor vehicles were shipped in. Containers totaled 26,108 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units).

This was higher compared to 21,134 TEUs handled at the port the previous week (March 26–April 1) where the vessels were equally fewer, at 28.

Standard Gauge Railway cargo trains also increased to 38 compared to 31 the previous week, moving a total of 6,347 TEUs compared to 6,121 TEUs.

“Operations remain stable,” KPA head of corporate affairs Bernard Osero told the Star, noting that business from China, Kenya's biggest trading partner, is picking up.

However, border controls, mainly at the KenyaUganda border have slowed truck-turn around. Uganda is the biggest transit market accounting for about 82 per cent of transit cargo through Mombasa.

“We continue to face some delays at the border because drivers must undergo the checks and even quarantine for 14 days. This has slowed down cargo movement and return of containers to the port,” Long Distance Truck Drivers Association chairman Nicholas Mbugua told the Star.

MombasaKampala turnaround time has increased to an average of 10 days from four days during normal operations, raising the cost of transportation.

KPA had last week cautioned that slow cargo evacuation could lead to congestion at the port and the Nairobi Inland Container Depot

The Shippers Council of Eastern Africa has proposed a number of measures to ease congestion, among them the suspension of verification charges.

“Sending of containers for 100 per cent verification and partial verification be stopped especially for known customers with a history of compliance,” CEO Gilbert Langat said.

The East African Business Council on Saturday also called for faster clearance of goods at border points.

The EAC region should ensure the borders remain fully operational and facilitate the free movement of goods and services,” CEO Peter Mathuki said.