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KPA denies port congestion, dispute with importers

Says operations at Mombasa are smooth with no pile up.

In Summary

•The authority was on Monday accused by a section of importers and Container Freight Stations (CFSs) of detaining thousands of containers in a raging dispute with importers.

•This is on whether the goods should be hauled by SGR to Nairobi or be released to Mombasa based CFSs.

Containers at the Port of Mombasa's Second Container Terminal/
Containers at the Port of Mombasa's Second Container Terminal/
Image: CHARLES MGHENYI

Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) has denied withholding containers at Mombasa port even as protests by importers over the mandatory use of the Standard Gauge Railway continues.

The authority was on Monday accused by a section of importers and Container Freight Stations (CFSs) of detaining thousands of containers  in a raging dispute with importers.

This is on whether the goods should be hauled by SGR to Nairobi or be released to Mombasa based CFSs.

The stand-off is said to have led to a pile up at the country's major sea port which not only serves Kenya but neighbouring landlocked countries.

According to the Container Freight Stations Association of Kenya, the stalemate has been going on for the last two weeks, with importers incurring huge loses in storage.

Central to the dispute KPA's insistence that all importers whose KRA PINs were registered upcountry, must clear their cargo in Nairobi.

However, importers are arguing that even though some of them registered their PINs in Nairobi, they have since relocated their businesses to Mombasa therefore in makes no sense to be forced to clear their containers in Nairobi.

Two meetings between the KPA and stakeholders last week, failed to break the stalemate.

Cargo including out of gauge containers (big containers), reefers (refrigerated container) and containers carrying dangerous cargo which cannot be transported by SGR, are stuck at the port.

An arrangement that gave the clients an option to nominate where to send their cargo is said to be ignored by KPA.

KPA has however dismissed the pile up and congestion claims saying the Port of Mombasa is “very fluid with no congestion at all”.

This is due to improved infrastructure and efficient operations measures that have been instituted, management said.

As of Tuesday, the total container population at the port was 14,960 TEUs( Twenty-foot Equivalent Unitthe standard unit for counting containers).

This is against a yard capacity of 35,000 TEUs meaning that only 43 per cent of the port capacity had been utilised.

Local containers which have been documented awaiting collection by owners were 908 TEUs, forming only six per cent of the total population in the port.

“Given that the port delivers 1,000 to 2,000 boxes daily, these can be delivered in less than a day,” managing director John Mwangemi said in a statement.

Undocumented (documents not yet lodged) containers are about 3,832 TEUs, out of which local containers are 813 TEUs, bringing the total local containers to 1,721 TEUs which is 11.5 per cent of the total population.

“The rest are transit and transhipment cargoes,” Mwangemi said.

Empty containers being stack for the ships to pick were about 4,074 as of yesterday.

The port receives an average 3,000 TEUs daily.

“If the containers were not being cleared for three weeks, we would have no place to stack containers from the ships and there will be a major ship and yard congestion prompting international protests by shipping lines,” Mwangemi said.

Containers for SGR are currently loaded directly, which KP management attributed to efficiency and adequate availability of wagons by Kenya Railways.

“So we wish to assure all our clients and stakeholders that the port is fluid and operating smoothly with no containers being withheld due to any dispute,” management said.

There are two petitions challenging the movement of containers to ICD-N by SGR.

The court however allowed KPA to continue to nominate Nairobi bound containers for SGR until November 10 when the matter is expected to have been concluded.

While KPA agrees some Mombasa bound containers can be railed to Nairobi by mistake, management said the authority has always taken responsibility to rail them back to Mombasa for clearance and collection by owners.