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February 26, 2018

Missing the boat: Cargo arrives late after vessels leave the port

President Uhuru Kenyatta flags off the first cargo train from Mombasa on May 30, last year / DPPS
President Uhuru Kenyatta flags off the first cargo train from Mombasa on May 30, last year / DPPS

Exporters using the standard gauge railway to transport cargo to Mombasa incur huge losses because it arrives after vessels have departed.

The SGR freight services schedule does not coincide with the schedule of vessels’ docking at the Port of Mombasa.

Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association (Kifwa) national chair William Ojonyo said on Monday that most of the time trains arrive at the port when vessels have already weighted anchor.

Then they incur additional storage costs, can’t meet orders and thus lose their orders abroad.

Ojonyo said Kenya Railways has not given exporters a proper schedule of the SGR freight services.

He said KR is supposed to load the cargo at the Nairobi Internal Container Depot and move it to Mombasa in readiness for export, but there has always been a delay in loading

“On many occasions, the export containers are delayed getting to the port in time for export vessels, since KR lacks logistical capacity,” Ojonyo said.

SGR has inherited the perennial logistical hitches from the Rift Valley Railway and therefore cannot be relied upon for efficient facilitation, he said.

He said exporters will continue using trucks that can be monitored directly along the logistics chain without depending on a third party, as they await stakeholders engagement.

“As logistics experts, we are yet to be assured how the empty containers will get back to appointed depots for the interchange to facilitate deposit refund,” Ojonjo said.

The Kenya Shippers Council said, however, they have not received any complaint from exporters about missing their vessels. It did say it has received complaints about cargo being moved from Mombasa to Nairobi without the knowledge of the importer or the agent.

He said only the importer or agent is legally allowed to nominate a container freight service where cargo will be taken for clearance. He called on KR to build the clients’ confidence by offering the best services and engaging them on a regular basis.

Last week, the government issued a directive requiring all un-nominated containers belonging to importers upcountry to be transported to the ICD in Embakasi by SGR, a move Kifwa termed illegal.

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