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February 17, 2019

Scanning technology at ports will expedite cargo clearance

Julius Musyoki
Julius Musyoki

The World Trade Organisation forecasts that global trade will rise by 3.6 per cent by the end of 2017. Sea transport will continue to play a key role in this growth, given that approximately 90 per cent of goods in the world are transported by sea.

However, this rapid growth in international trade evidenced by cargo volumes, travellers and conveyances presents increasingly new challenges. They include security threats of terrorism, illegal trade in natural resources, trade in substances that pose a threat to public health and safety, illicit financial flows (money laundering) as well as sea piracy.

In this regard, customs administrations and other players in the global supply chain need to continuously build and upgrade capacity to handle the increased volumes in international trade and travel whilst enhancing supply chain security. This endeavour calls for striking a balance between facilitation of trade and travel and enforcement of customs controls to safeguard public safety and security.

Cargo inspection therefore is a critical aspect in safeguarding the supply chain security and protection of society against organised transnational crimes of terrorism, hazardous substances and environmental crimes, and facilitation of legitimate trade. For the last 15 years, the Kenya Revenue Authority has employed modern cargo inspection tools through operationalisation of X-ray cargo scanning solutions at the Mombasa seaport and airports.

The use of non-intrusive inspection equipment is consistent with the World Customs Organisation’s Safe Framework of Standards, which states: “That non-intrusive inspection equipment and radiation detection equipment should be available and used for conducting inspections, and in accordance with risk assessment. This equipment is necessary to inspect high-risk cargo and/or transport conveyances quickly, without disrupting the flow of legitimate trade.”

The recent commissioning of three additional scanners, donated by the People’s Republic of China, at the Port of Mombasa is therefore a major milestone in sealing revenue leakages and in the fight against illegal importation and exportation of restricted and prohibited goods. The launch and deployment of these scanners will increase the port’s throughput capacity to scan up to 1,000 containers per day while at the same time increasing considerably the KRA scanner assets under the national scanner solution framework.

In 2015/2016, the X-ray cargo scanning unit at the Port of Mombasa made a number of high profile interceptions. At one point, nine top of the range vehicles concealed as bicycles and toys from the United Kingdom and in transit to Uganda were intercepted. Investigation into the syndicate was able to unearth more vehicles which had been registered irregularly and the culprits brought to book. Other cases involved over 21 containers of new garments disguised as cold rooms as well as three containers of milk powder disguised as gypsum boards. Further, undeclared electronics, spare parts, ivory and sandalwood under CITES were also intercepted through scanning over the same period.

Apart from the interception of contraband goods, the scanners have also helped prevent perpetrators of the criminal activities from dumping cheap, substandard and harmful products in the local market to the detriment of the citizens.

To complement the capacity of the existing scanners, KRA expects to receive another donation of 10 baggage scanners from the Peoples’ Republic of China for baggage screening at airport terminals to boost customer facilitation at airports.

In addition, KRA is in the process of installing smart gate technology at the points of entry that will automate the capture of container and vehicle registration marks and numbers prior to the release of cargo from the ports and container freight stations, effectively phasing out manual processes and enhancing the integrity of cargo release records.

Other initiatives such as the implementation of the single customs territory, the regional electronic cargo tracking system and the integrated customs management system, will collectively reduce the cargo dwell-time at the Port of Mombasa. The enhanced systems will also significantly reduce the time taken to transport cargo to inland container depots and neighbouring destinations. It will also transform the Port of Mombasa to be more competitive and promote economic growth in the region and internationally.

Granted, states will always be under pressure from stakeholders to expedite the clearing and movement of goods from ports and other border posts to minimize the cost of doing business. The rise in maritime traffic will continue generating the demand for advanced technology in handling the movement of cargo through sea and land borders and, to this end, the scanning technology will remain a critical tool now and in the future.

Julius Musyoki is the Commissioner for Customs and Border Control at the Kenya Revenue Authority, [email protected]


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