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March 18, 2018

SGR cargo directive ‘has no legal backing’

The SGR cargo train after being flagged off by the president at the Port of Mombasa on June 2,2017./MIONICAH MWANGI
The SGR cargo train after being flagged off by the president at the Port of Mombasa on June 2,2017./MIONICAH MWANGI

A directive requiring all import and export cargo be transported through the standard gauge railway has received mixed reactions from cargo handlers.

The Transport PS issued a circular on March 7 requiring all government departments and agencies to use SGR for movement of cargo.

Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association said the directive may be music to Kenya Railways Corporation’s ears, but may not have any legal backing.

Kifwa national chairman William Ojonyo said the cargo owner in this case, the consignee, will decide how best cargo will be transported.

“Meanwhile, we must appreciate the fact that SGR is a major investment that must be supported by like-minded Kenyans, especially bearing in mind that in multi-modal transport, rail is second cheapest to sea, making it automatic as a preferred mode of transport against road and air freight,” he said.

Kenya Shippers Council chairman Gilbert Langat said government is one of the biggest cargo movers and handles around 40 per cent through parastatals and the government.

“There is a government clearing house/agent for clearing, which is a department under Treasury, but their capacity has not been sufficient enough. That is why it was opened up to private cargo handlers,” Langat said.

He said the directive should not block any cargo handled by the government from moving by road, especially from the container freight stations.

“We receive approximately 3,000 containerised cargo per day and the government can only handle around 15-16 per cent of the cargo,” he told the Star.

The officials noted that the SGR project is a big infrastructure and all efforts should ensure that it is used.

“The SGR should compliment the other existing systems like road and not to be seen as a competitor. At the same time, the Government should realise they are major users of the port and therefore there should be efficiency amongst stakeholders,” Langat said.

The surplus cargo they noted, will be transported through alternative means.

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