Uganda border truck pile up could affect Mombasa port cargo clearance - Kifwa

The truck drivers were protesting introduction of Sh3,600 fresh Covid-19 at the border

In Summary

•The drivers complained the new mandatory test was discriminatory and exploitative.

•Uganda was also demanding fresh tests after every seven days, despite the fact that Covid-19 tests’ validity is 14 days.

•The strike was called off last week Tuesday, but congestion continues to be witnessed at the border

The 11-day stand-off between truck drivers and Ugandan authorities at Busia and Malaba borders over Covid-19 clearance might lead to congestion at the port of Mombasa.

According to the Kenya International Freighters and Warehousing Association (Kifwa) Mombasa chairperson Roy Mwanthi there is likely to be a backlog of cargo evacuation at the port.

Hundreds of truck drivers were stuck at the border points protesting new Covid-19 regulations and testing fees charged by Uganda.

Uganda demanded fresh tests for all drivers before crossing the border at a cost of Sh3,600, despite the drivers having been tested in Kenya upon embarking on a trip.

Uganda also sought fresh tests after every seven days, despite the fact that Covid-19 tests are validity for 14 days.

On Monday, due to pressure and congestion that stretched over 70 kilometres the Uganda's Ministry of Health temporarily suspended the mandatory Covid-19 testing at the Malaba and Busia borders.

Uganda’s director for health services Charles Olaro said the decision was reached at to ease congestion.

The delay in clearance led to a fuel shortage in Uganda as the country majorly relies on road and rail transport for delivery of oil products.

Speaking in Mombasa, Mwanthi said that despite the drivers calling off the strike on Tuesday last week, there will be congestion at the port due to cargo pile up.

He said as the trucks arrive in Mombasa this week for loading of cargo, long queues will be witnessed.

“A majority of the trucks operating in Mombasa were caught up in the strike, we expect them to be coming down in the course of the week, therefore we expect to see congestion at the port ,” said Mwathi.

He said there could also be a shortage Tracking System (RECTS) Seals used to monitor cargo. 

“We await to see a shortage of those seals because they are always retrieved after the trucks cross over the border. Most trucks are yet to return the seals,” he said.

Trading agents who had secured empty containers are also expected to suffer demurrage charges from shipping lines because most of the empty containers will be delivered past the required deadlines.

“The strike has dealt a major blow to many people in the sector, transporters for instance were heavily affected because in a month they could make between three to four trips,”he said.

He added: “Given that most of the cargo was loaded between December 28 and 30, it’s more than 19 days since they left, meaning that transporters have lost a trip due to the stalemate.”

Mwanthi said it is puzzling that Kenya Ports Authority, a key stakeholder in the cargo business has remained silent yet any issue affecting the Northern Corridor  impacts on its operations.

 “Cargo outflow at the port is dependent on the fluidity of the Northern Corridor, if the area is affected, then the cargo outflow at the port is automatically going to be affected too,” he said.

However, KPA senior communications officer Hajj Masemo said the problem at the Kenya-Uganda border has not affected the cargo off take at the port.

He said the transit cargo goods accounts for only 20 percent of all the cargo handled at the port of Mombasa.

Haji said 70 percent of the cargo is Nairobi-bound while about 10 percent is for the Coast region.

“Most of the cargo (about 70 percent) is transported to Nairobi via the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR). This, therefore means, that the impact of the strike by the truck drivers at the borders will not be felt at the port of Mombasa,” he said.

However, he added that if the problem would have persisted for about one month, then the ripple-down effect would have slowly been felt in Mombasa.