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Kenya rejects Uganda bid for optional use of SGR, Naivasha ICD

Transport CS James Macharia insists on use of ICD, cites efficiency and convenience

In Summary

•Transport ministry directed that all cargo destined for Uganda, Rwanda, and South Sudan be hauled to Naivasha ICD from June 1.

•Directive has sparked protests from leaders, truckers associations, and pressure groups.

President Uhuru Kenyatta flanked by Transport CS James Macharia (R) during the launch of freight service on the Standard Gauge Railway from Nairobi to Naivasha, December 17, 2019. /PSCU
President Uhuru Kenyatta flanked by Transport CS James Macharia (R) during the launch of freight service on the Standard Gauge Railway from Nairobi to Naivasha, December 17, 2019. /PSCU

Kenya has turned down Uganda’s request for optional use of the Standard Gauge Railway to haul goods destined for Kampala.

Ugandan Transport minister Edward Katumba had asked his Kenyan counterpart James Macharia to reconsider the May 22 directive.

Kenya has ordered that all cargo from Mombasa Port be ferried to the Naivasha Inland Container Depot for clearance starting today.

The neighbouring country, though, is of the view that the use of SGR is left open to those who prefer other means.

Same for collection of cargo from the new Naivasha ICD.

“It is our considered opinion that the use of Naivasha ICD – which is part of our long-term regional infrastructure development, should remain optional,” Katumba said in a May 22 letter seen by the Star.

He urged the government to first make the facility attractive for big shippers and logistics companies.

And in what shows that the State is not budging, CS Macharia has instead encouraged Uganda to consider using the facility citing its competitive advantage over roads.

The CS positioned the facility’s installations among them the SGR, a stacking yard with a capacity of 4,000 twenty-foot equivalent units.

Macharia further told Uganda that the ICD has cargo handling equipment – terminal tractors, reach stackers and forklifts, same as those at Mombasa port and Nairobi ICD.

The CS also informed his counterpart of office accommodation – with power and internet - for Uganda, Rwanda, and South Sudan taxmen.

He holds there are logistics officers for clearing and forwarding firms and site for clearing agencies to put up fabricated offices.

The CS cited a yard for handling empty containers for direct delivery by last-mile service providers to Mombasa port without extra charge.

On rates, Macharia said there would be no other charges since the Naivasha ICD is operating on the same model as Nairobi ICD.

He asked cargo movers to take advantage of the 30-day free storage period for all imports under the promotional program for Naivasha ICD.

“The land allocated to Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan are still available once our partner states are ready,” the letter reads.

Macharia further states there is sufficient space for parking and that it would be cheaper to use the facility compared with the road.

According to the ministry, it would cost a transporter USD 1,930 (Sh206,000) and USD 2,180 (Sh232,700) to haul a 20ft and 40 feet container respectively.

“The SGR option from Mombasa to Naivasha shortens the road distance by 552 kilometres and therefore supports the containment of Covid-19 pandemic,” the CS said.

Macharia also spoke of plans to revitalize the meter-gauge railway between Mombasa and Malaba border.

“There are also plans to develop a meter-gauge railway link to Naivasha ICD to provide a seamless transfer of cargo between it and SGR in the next six months,” he said.

The ministry says it is ready to engage Uganda and other players to address ‘any challenges that may adversely impact seamless transportation and its attendant benefits.’

Coast leaders, truckers  and clearing agents have also opposed the move saying there should be room for one to choose their preferred mode of transport.

Mvita lawmaker Abdulswamad Nassir has written to Speaker Justin Muturi seeking summonses to CS Macharia to shed light on the matter.

He holds that the directive amounts to economic sabotage against not only the Coast region but also the livelihoods supported by Mombasa port.

“If you consider the number of people employed to handle the logistics of running a port, then you realize that this is going to kill our people. It is something that a country should not do,” the MP said.