Cars pile up in Mombasa port as cessation order continues

Movement affected by measures to curb Covid-19

In Summary

•Importers say CFSs full with spill–over threatening to cause congestion at the Port of Mombasa.

•KPA has called on players in the logistic chain, both in Kenya and the hinterland, to ensure smooth operations since more cars are still coming into the region.

Imported vehicles parked at a yard in Mombasa/ Image: JOHN CHESOLI
Imported vehicles parked at a yard in Mombasa/ Image: JOHN CHESOLI

Hundreds of imported motor vehicles are stuck in Mombasa as the government directive on cessation of movement in and out of the port city remains in place.

Though imports including motor vehicle parts, motorcycles, and parts are listed as essential units coming in through the Mombasa Port are not moving, dealers say.

This has led to congestion at Container Freight Stations (CFSs) with importers and dealers incurring daily storage charges, which threatens to push up the sale price.


The Car Importers Association of Kenya (CIAK) has further warned of an imminent spill-over to the port as CFSs run out of space, a situation that could cause port congestion at the port.

“CFSs are in full capacity and cannot handle any more motor vehicles,” CIAK national chairman, Peter Otieno, told the Star.

An average of 9,000 to 10,000 units are shipped through Mombasa every month with numbers remaining high despite a slowdown on the economy in the wake of the Coronavirus.

These include units destined for the hinterland mainly Uganda, South Sudan, DR Congo and Northern Tanzania areas of Tanga, Arusha, and Usangi which use the Port of Mombasa due to proximity.

“We cannot transfer vehicles to Nairobi, Nakuru,Eldoret, Kericho, Kisii, and Kisumu where our members have showrooms, " said Otieno.

Units headed to Uganda and other landlocked countries have also been affected.

“This is going to cause a spillover to the port meaning we are likely to have congestion soon,” he said.

At least 20,000 vehicles (cars and trucks) have landed at Mombasa in the last two months, according to importers.


Eight vessels carrying motor vehicles are expected to berth in Mombasa between May 14 and May 24 bringing in 3,000 units according to the latest KPA shipping data.

To secure the units, importers and dealers have been forced to pay for storage which on average costs Sh2,000 per unit per day in private yards in Mombasa. 

CFSs on the other hand 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, pays Sh260 on top of the CFS charge.

The storage costs are likely to increase the cost of units, CIAK has warned, which could see Kenyans dig deeper into their pockets to buy the used cars which account for 85 per cent of vehicles sold in Kenya.

Yesterday, KPA head of corporate affairs Bernard Osero said movement of units is likely to have been affected by measures to curb the spread of Covid-19, where drivers have to be tested before transit.

“Movement out of CFSs is not fast enough,” Osero confirmed but said industry players need to comply with the health requirements for smooth operations.

Inquiries by the Star revealed the majority of drivers have not been able to meet the requirements including testing and securing certificates to transit.

“The logistic chain which starts and ends at the port must keep flowing. Any weak link like congestion at CFS will cause a spillover back to port thus making it a storage area,”Osero said.

“We advanced from such situations many years ago. Every player in the logistic chain must, therefore, ensure such a scenario doesn’t arise since more cars are still coming into the region,” he said.

The country imports up to 12,000 units a month on a peak, mainly second-hand cars from Japan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Singapore and South Africa.