Kenya Imports Documents Required - Customs Clearance

1.1 Import declaration form

An IDF must be applied for and obtained from the Kenya Revenue Authority for any Commercial Importation. The Importer is responsible for applying for the IDF but may use a clearing and forwarding agent to consult or input this into the ORBUS system. Once the IDF is passed, the importer might proceed to arrange inspection of the cargo (see 1.2) and once completed (or not required) ship the cargo.
The IDF contains key information:

  • Value of the cargo for tax calculation.
    Note that values may be disputed by customs and cargo verified to solve any disputes over the same. It is strongly advised to use correct values.
  • Quantity.
    Should be as detailed and correct as possible. Every slightly different type of goods should have their own specified quantity rather than grouping similar items.
  • Quality.
    This should also be backed up by the inspection. Other control bodies such the Kenya Bureau of Standards, Public Health Department, Department of Agriculture (Kephis) etc. may be asked to determine if the expected standards have been met. Incase of suspicion, Tests may be carried out and Certificates/Permits issued. Under this criteria, test Certificates from accredited bodies may be required.
  • Classification (HS Code):
    Just like the other items these might be queried so it is best to ask beforehand if not sure especially if different HS codes attract different taxations.


1.2 Certificate of Conformity (if applicable)

The Kenya Bureau of Standards has appointed certain agents (INTERTEK, SGS, Bureau Veritas) for the conformity inspection of the commodities that require inspection.

The full list of such goods can be found on:

These agents will issue to the shipper/supplier a Certificate of Conformity and the test results.
It is important to plan ahead for this requirement especially for time-critical shipments as testing and issuing of the certificate can take some time.

1.3 Master Bill of Lading

When issuing the bill of lading, the shipping line should take care of the following guidelines:
Consignee. The consignee column on the BL should read "Name & Full address of actual receiver". This is carried over into the customs system and identifies the taxpayer (or the exempted party). This company / person must always be located in the country of destination and be tax registered (have a PIN/TIN).

Example: Even if for cargo going to Uganda, the buyer is the head office, located in Kenya, the cargo must be consigned to a registered company/person in Uganda.

Exceptions are in the case of letters of credit where a bank is consigned.

An alternative for shipments through Mombasa port is to describe the consignee as “Aeromarine Capital as agents of Name & Full address of actual receiver “. This way will circumvent the need of endorsements by consignee at the back of the Bill of Lading. In general and definitely for cargo consigned to individuals rather than companies, we recommend the first option.

Notify. The notify party on the BL should read:
Aeromarine Capital Group Kenya

Place of delivery. The place of delivery on the MBL should only be filled in case of Through Bill of Lading.

Description. The description of cargo on the BL should always mention the actual number of packages involved eg the BL should read "1x 40' STC 456 packages <cargo type> General descriptions like 1 x 40' STC Tiles, Pumps and spare parts should be avoided. This will necessitate the time wasting requisite of applying for manifest amendments to insert number of packages, which will lead to delay charges and demurrage. The number of packages mentioned on the BL should be the number of packages on the presented commercial invoice and packing list (everything should tally).

World IMCO standards apply at the Kenya Ports Authority. Thus if a shipment is classified under an IMCO class that falls into the category of Dangerous Cargo, cargo must be properly described as such with the correct code. Also note a surcharge is charged by the Ports Authority as soon the shipment is discharged from vessel. Importers are thus urged to familiarize themselves with these regulations and know that when shipping such kind of shipment.

Telex Release.

When organizing for a telex release (as opposed to courier of Original BL), the wordings of the release instructions should read "RELEASE CARGO TO AEROMARINE CAPITAL AS AGENTS OF "IMPORTERS /CONSIGNEES' NAME' WITHOUT PRESENTATION OF ORIGINAL MASTER BILL OF LADING".

Container Freight Station Consigning.

All containerized local imports into Kenya are normally transferred to a private CFS (container freight station) assigned on a per vessel basis by the ports authorities. This is to decongest the port. Exceptions are dangerous cargo and consignments whereby the importer has obtained special permission for port clearance. In order to obtain more free days for clearance of goods (15-21 instead of the usual 4 days only) an importer can nominate the Container Freight Station of his/her choice rather than having the cargo transferred to the Container Freight Station assigned to that vessel. It can also assist the importer in smoother delivery from the Container Freight Station if dealing with a better equipped Container Freight Station. For this to take effect, a clause “to be transferred to <name> CFS (Container Freight Station) on merchant’s account and risk” has to be inserted into the bill of lading. It has to be noted the Container Freight Station will charge an additional transfer fee in this case in return for the priority handling of the cargo and additional free storage days.

1.4 Packing List

Description of goods on the packing list must match with the details mentioned on the Bill of Lading and the Commercial Invoice. Packing List must indicate the package number, description, weight in metric ton, length in meter, width in meter, height in meter and cubic measurement of all packages.

1.5 Commercial Invoice

Invoice must be detailed (as per pertaining packing list) and the total CIF value of the consignment must be indicated. It would be preferable to have the exact details reflected on the packing list copied and paste on the commercial invoice and values indicated in the adjacent column, and a total CIF value indicated at the bottom of the document (Items cost, freight charges and insurance amount must be duly broken down on each Commercial Invoice).

1.6 Exemption letter (if applicable)

Charities, major projects, governmental organizations, diplomatic missions, returning residents etc. can apply for exemption of duties and/or VAT. This is done by the receiver writing to the Treasury. If accepted, the Treasury instructs the customs not to collect the waived portion on the particular consignment. Exemption letters are usually granted for specific consignments which have to be exactly described in the application.

Obtained exemptions are uploaded into the customs system by means of a code which has to be passed on to the clearing agent when declaring the cargo later on (see point 2.1 below)

1.7 Dispatch of documents in time

All the above documents must reach us at least 7 days prior to vessel arrival in Mombasa to avoid losing valuable time.

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