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Congestion has hit the port of Mombasa fuelling fears of a possible increase in prices of imported goods.
Congestion has hit the port of Mombasa fuelling fears of a possible increase in prices of imported goods.

The container terminal yard is holding close to 17,000 Twenty Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) against a capacity of 14,300 according to a status report released at the weekend by operations manager, Mr Joseph Atonga.

Between February and April when transport to upcountry was paralysed following the post-election violence, the yard was holding 19,000 TEUs, with more than 10 ships waiting to off load cargo.

The situation led to a threat by shipping lines to impose the punitive Vessel Delay Surcharge (VDS) which goes up to $300 per TEU per day to take care of expenses they incur while the ship is waiting.

Consequences of a VDS are enormous as goods become more expensive due to importers passing on the excessive clearing charges to consumers. The port is, however, not faced with such a charge at the moment.

Complete documents

According to the report, there were six vessels being off-loaded while eight more were waiting with 3,400 container units whose documents were complete lying at the yard uncollected.

“Uncollected cargo has been one of the main causes of congestion and we ask importers to bring their trucks and collect their cargo,” said Mr Atonga on Sunday.

In order to deal with the current congestion crisis, shipping lines will now channel their cargo directly to Container Freight Stations (CFSs).

As a result, the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) has asked shipping lines to nominate CFSs where all imported cargo will be dispatched to.

The move would introduce a new system in which the bill of lading for cargo will now indicate that the consignment is destined for a particular CFS and not KPA, said Mr Atonga.

“This is intended to reduce congestion at the terminal. We would like a situation in which cargo does not spend more than 48 hours at the port after a ship has docked,” he said.

Piling of uncollected containers has been blamed on lack of trucks because transporters have reportedly concentrated on transportation of relief cargo which pays them more.

Mombasa port has suffered persistent congestion caused mainly by lack of equipment to move containers and infrastructural logistics resulting from the railway system transporting only six per cent of cargo against an international requirement of at least 60 per cent.

The solution

“The new system, also used by Nhavasheba Container Terminal in Mumbai, India which has the same quay line length as Mombasa port, is the solution to persistent congestion at the port,” said Mr Atonga.