Clearing firms seek more time on S. Sudan containers

Cite delays occasioned by insecurity in the country.

In Summary

•They want free period given by shipping lines extended by 15 days to save them from demurrage charges.

•Most shipping lines give between 11 and 14 days before starting to charge $25 per container per day.

Kenyan trucks parked at the Uganda-South Sudan border of Elegu/HANDOUT
Kenyan trucks parked at the Uganda-South Sudan border of Elegu/HANDOUT

Clearing and forwarding agents at the Mombasa port handling South Sudan destined cargo risk paying millions in penalty for delayed cargo off-loading.

This is because of insecurity in the troubled country that has affected cargo movement. Two Kenyan drivers have been killed.

Clearing agents are now asking for at least 15 more free days to offload  cargo destined for South Sudan.

On August 23, Kenya Transporters Association(KTA) issued a travel warning, advising transporters against crossing the border to South Sudan.

This saw about 3,000 trucks park at the Uganda-South Sudan border at Elegu for two weeks, according to transporters.

By yesterday, majority of the trucks that had picked cargo from the Mombasa port were yet to make a turn-around trip which has seen containers delay by up to four weeks, the Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association (Kifwa) said.

Most shipping lines give between 11 and 14 free days.

After this, shipping lines slap importers and transporters with a minimum bill of $25 (Sh2,746) per container, per day as demurrage, a charge payable to the owner of a chartered ship on failure to load or discharge the ship within the time agreed.

A 20-days delay, which is the current average for the South Sudan bound cargo, will attract a fee of Sh54,920 as demurrage alone.

Kifwa has since called on the Kenya Maritime Authority(KMA) to intervene and save traders from the high cost.

This situation is beyond our control,” Kifwa national chairman Roy Mwanthi said in a telephone interview with the Star yesterday.

In a letter to KMA, Mwanthi has said Kifwa members are set to suffer major costs in form of demmurages associated with the delays.

“We thus request your authority to intervene as you did during the onset of Covid-10 pandemic crisis that led to borders crises, and ask the various shipping lines/agents to extend the free period by at least fifteen days for cargo destined to South Sudan,” the letter to the KMA Director General reads in part.

While movement to Juba by truckers has resumed after a two weeks strike, the truck turn-around time has more than doubled from the previous seven to 10 days, transporters note.

In July last year, KMA asked shipping lines to extend free period on return of empty containers by an additional seven days and three days for transit and local traffic, respectively.

According to the authority, measures put in place to contain the spread of Covid-19 had partly led to delays in clearance and movement of cargo at the Port of Mombasa and along the Northern Corridor.

The directive will be valid until the Covid-19 pandemic challenges subside,” it had said.

A longer period of up to 80 days being at the Dar es Salaam Port, through the Central Corridor, however gives the neighbouring country an edge over Kenya.

Mombasa served the Northern Corridor with key transit destination being Uganda, South Sudan, DR Congo and Burundi.