SETBACK

Border delays push up transport costs through Mombasa port

Importers paying up to Sh639,600 in far distances

In Summary

•This is despite a drop on volumes in the wake of interruption of the global supply chain, which has seen fewer vessels call at the facility.

•Cargo handled at port declined from 3.2 million tonnes in January 2020 to 2.7 million tonnes in March, official data shows.

Trucks at the Malaba border
STAND-OFF: Trucks at the Malaba border
Image: /JOHN NALIANYA

Transport costs between Mombasa and key East Africa transit destinations have increased by between $300 (Sh31, 980) and $1000 (Sh106, 600), blamed on cross-border delays occasioned by Covid-19.

The increase in the period taken the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) to inspect and test consignments has also affected cargo clearance at the port of Mombasa.

This is despite a drop in volumes due to an interruption in the global supply chain, which has seen fewer vessels call at the facility.

 

Cargo handled at port declined from 3.2 million tonnes in January 2020 to 2.7 million tonnes in March, official data shows.

However, importers have been forced to pay more for transport costs, a survey by the Shippers Council of Eastern Africa (SCEA) indicates.

To move a consignment from Mombasa to Kampala now costs an average $2500 (Sh266,500) up from $2300 (Sh245,180) during pre-Covid-19 period.

Kigali costs Sh405,080 up from Sh362,440, South Sudan Sh479,700 up from Sh383,760 and Mombasa-Bujumbura(Burundi), through Rwanda now costs Sh628,940 up from Sh522,340.

Moving a consignment from Mombasa to DR Congo now costs an average Sh639,600 up from Sh533,000.

According to SCEA, pronounced cross border challenges as a result of Covid-19 pandemic and its containment measures which include testing of drivers, delay in test results, screening and driver self-quarantine result to prolonged transit time.

“The delays at the borders result to an additional cost of $200 USD per day (about Sh21,320 ) for every extra day taken as per the current transit time compared to the pre-Covid time which was at zero additional cost,”SCEA CEO GilbertLangat notes.

 

The cost incurred caters for parking fees and drivers upkeep and truck idle time.

While it used to take between two and four days to transit between Mombasa and Kampala which is the top transit destination through Mombasa, it now takes between seven and nine days.

Transit time to Kigali now averages 14-16 days from seven days, South Sudan (26 days from nine days), Bujumbura (20 days from 10) while DRC transit time has increased from a maximum 21 days to 45 days.

Uganda accounts for 83.2 per cent of transit cargo through the port of Mombasa. South Sudan takes up 9.9 per cent while DR Congo, Tanzania and Rwanda account for 7.2 per cent, 3.2 per cent and 2.4 per cent respectively.

“We need to focus on efficiency because when we return to normalcy, cargo will rise,” Langat said, calling on government agencies in cargo handling to up their game.

The survey indicates it took Kebs an average seven days to complete inspection and testing on average in January to March 2020, despite the decline in a number of consignments released.

The number of consignment released by Kebs declined from 11,499 in January to 7,157 in April.

There was also a decline in the number of trains from Mombasa to the Inland Container Depot-Nairobi from 242 in January to 187 in April.

The number shipping lines calling at Mombasa Port decline from 43 ships in January to 41 in March, 2020.

“The impact was further felt with reduction of containers handled from a total of 129,213 TEUs in January to 102,643 TUEs March 2019. The cancellation of vessel calls affected consignments coming to Mombasa,” Langat said.