Number plate shortage hits car buyers as NTSA scales down services

Hundreds of imported units now remain parked

In Summary

•Most affected are private vehicle importers, imports for commercial use and Public Service Vehicles such as matatus and taxis.

•On average, yards in Mombasa charge Sh2, 000 per unit per day inclusive of VAT for storage.

Imported vehicles parked at a yard in Mombasa/
Imported vehicles parked at a yard in Mombasa/

Importers and buyers of imported vehicles have been forced to park various units for lack of new motor vehicle number plates. This is despite having paid all the requisite duties.

The slow down in the registration of motor vehicles follows the scaling down of operations by the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

NTSA has suspended collection of number plates, logbooks, PSV badges, smart driver’s licence, driver testing and motor vehicle inspection, which were previously done physically.

Hundreds of imported units now remain parked, as owners cannot drive them on the roads without proper registration.

Most affected are private vehicle importers, imports for commercial use and Public Service Vehicles such as matatus and taxis.

“The vehicles will not be registered until an inspection is done and that is not happening currently. It means the vehicle stays in a yard,” Car Importers Association of Kenya (CIAK) national chairman, Peter Otieno, told the Star yesterday.

“Or the purchaser risks by getting a handwritten number plate, that would see them run into trouble with the police for using an unregistered vehicle,” he added.

Dealers are also suffering as millions lie in banks, which can only release the monies after the exchange of logbooks.

More than 9,000 vehicles (cars and trucks) have landed at Mombasa in the past three weeks. A total of 8,467 vehicles came into the country between March 5 and April 8, KPA data shows.


“There has been a challenge, of course, NTSA has to take precaution on the virus but we have set a committee to address the problem,” Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association national chairman Roy Mwanthi told the Star.


Eight vessels carrying motor vehicles are expected at the port between tomorrow and April 30, where owners will be forced to wait longer before using their vehicles, a move that comes with storage charges.

On average, yards in Mombasa charge Sh2, 000 per unit per day inclusive of VAT. Container Freight Stations charge between Sh300 and Sh1,000 depending on the size of a vehicle.

Car owners also pay $0.25(Sh26) per cubic meter as customs fee, with a minimum of 10 cubic meters. A saloon car, which averages 10 cubic meters, will pay Sh260 on top of the CFS charge.

NTSA on April 8, wrote to Interior PS Karanja Kibichio, indicating it had also withdrawn its services from Container Freight Stations where its staff has been issuing physical motor-vehicle number plates and stickers after registration.

It, however, proposed that KRA should authorise the release of duly registered motor vehicles from CFSs pending issuance of physical plates.

This will not only help to reduce demurrage costs to vehicle owners but also employees’ physical interaction with motor vehicle dealers and importers, hence protecting the employees from exposure, NTSA director-general George Njau said.

“The vehicles will, however, be parked at owners and dealers yards until issuance of physical plates at a later date,” he said in the letter.

The country imports up to 12,000 units a month, mainly second-hand cars, with annual imports standing at about 130,000 where used cars enjoying 85 per cent market share.

An estimated Sh60 billion is spent on these units annually.

The Economic Survey 2019 shows new registration of motor vehicles increased to 102,036 units in 2018 from 91,071 units in 2017.

CIAK has now appealed to the NTSA to allow vehicles with proper paper work on the road as they await inspection.

“NTSA should devise a way to ensure vehicle inspection continues to avert a crisis post the corona virus,” Otieno said,

He said dealers and owners can deliver the vehicles at NTSA facilities with all the required documentation where they can be sprayed, inspected, then owners allowed to collect.