OUT CRY

Clearing agents protest ‘wrong’ cargo verification charges

Says KPA charging containers that are not fully verified.

In Summary

•KPA has contracted Mercantile Cargo Terminal Operations Limited to provide container-stripping services during verification.

•The authority charges $80(Sh8,504) for verification of a 20-foot container and $120(Sh12,756) for that of a 40-foot.

Containers nabbed with illegal goods comprising sugar and rice./FILE
Containers nabbed with illegal goods comprising sugar and rice./FILE

Clearing agents have raised questions over the implementation of the cargo verification charges by Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), which has seen them pay for containers that are not fully verified.

KPA charges $80(Sh8,504) for verification of a 20-foot container and $120(Sh12,756) for that of a 40-foot.

The authority then channels the monies to Mercantile Cargo Terminal Operations Limited, the firm contracted to provide container-stripping services during verification.

Speaking to the Star yesterday, the Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association (KIFWA) said its clients are being charged for containers that have not undergone the 100 per cent verification process, which is the chargeable service.

The Shippers Council of Eastern Africa (SCEA) had also previously opposed to the charges.

“The charges are supposed to apply to containers that have been fully stripped and cargo verified. However, we are being charged even when a container is just opened to see content from a distance and it is released,” Kifwa national chairman Roy Mwanthi said.

He questioned why KPA, on behalf of Mercantile Cargo Terminal Operations, is charging verification where labour has not been used.

“This is impunity. They are taking advantage of importers,” Mwanthi said.

KPA re-introduced the cargo verification on April 21 after an attempt in February failed.

It was forced to postpone the move after more than 600 clearing and forwarding firms, majority operating at the Inland Container Depot-Nairobi (ICDN), paralysed operations at the KPA's Embakasi facility on February 18 in protest of the charges.

In April, the head of ICDN Peter Masinde announced the re-introduction.

“In an effort to increase the efficiency of cargo verification process arising from Customs and Kebs (Kenya Bureau of Standards) inspection, Kenya Ports Authority has outsourced labour for this purpose to ensure a reliable and steady supply of labour,” Masinde said.

Payment charges are secured by KPA to enhance transparency in raising of bills, Masinde said.

Cargo verification comes on the request of state agencies such as Kenya Revenue Authority and Kebs, which verify cargo suspected to contain contraband, misdeclared goods, or under-declared goods.

A shipper or importer can also request for verification to ascertain the contents of a container.

KRA, Kebs, and other government agencies traditionally call for full verification after suspicious results during scanning.

Importers with a history of contrabands also have their containers stripped to curb tax evasion and illegal imports.

According to KPA, an average of 200 to 300 containers are verified every day.

“It depends on government agencies. It can be more or less,” Masinde told the Star on the telephone.

SCEA has insisted that the charges should only apply on the request of the shipper, and not government agencies.

“KPA tariff has a component on handling which includes the verification charges,” SCEA chief executive Gilbert Langat told the Star.