Inside Politics

KPA bets on double-stack trains to lift port services

Friday, January 29th, 2021 12:00 |
Train. Photo/Courtesy

The Port of Mombasa has introduced double-stack railing of goods to improve cargo off-take by Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) freight service.

Double-stack rail is a form of freight transport where railroad vehicles carry two layers of intermodal containers.

Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) said the service will enable dispatch of 152 containers from the current 108 containers per day, enhancing faster cargo movement and increased efficiency at the port. 

Cargo haulage by the Standard Gauge Railway has been at the centre of controversy pitting container freight stations and local importers.

The new development comes in the wake of outrage by importers over delays of clearance of cargo at the port, a problem that worsened during the general elections in Uganda and the internet disconnection.

Importers, mainly manufacturers in Nairobi, have had their cargo consisting mostly of raw materials take up to 21 days at the port, affecting factory operations.

The synergy loophole and lack of consistent coordination between Kenya Railways and KPA in cargo handling is also blamed for unprecedented delays that have seen importers decry loss of business.

Logistics network

This is despite the government last year coming up with the Kenya Transport and Logistics Network (KTLN) which brings together KPA, Kenya Railways and Kenya Pipeline under the coordination of the Industrial and Commercial Development Corporation (ICDC).

Its aim of centralising and coordination of operations to improve services is yet to bear fruits and seems to have encountered its own share of challenges.

Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), a key agency in cargo clearance at the port, this week defended the implementation of the new integrated customs management system (iCMS), which cargo importers blame for constant delays while clearing imports at the port of Mombasa.

Speaking during the celebration of this year’s International Customs day (ICD), KRA Southern region coordinator Joseph Tonui acknowledged hiccups in the new system implementation even as he assured that the minor challenges will not derail cargo clearance at the port.

“Conventional cargo is currently on the iCMS system, so where there are challenges we are going to ensure they are rectified.

We know there are challenges with new systems. Sometimes they derail business but we are working to ensure the system is fully operational,” he said.

iCMS is aimed at achieving full automation of all customs functions and processes in Kenya and East Africa.

The tax agency said it has been training stakeholders, and continues to offer support for those who don’t understand the new system.

Increased number

Meanwhile, KPA reports show that there is an increased number of ships that are calling at the Port of Mombasa, signifying an improvement as compared to last year’s interruption by the Covid-19 pandemic.

By last week, there were 1,496 TEUs (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Unit) – the approximate unit of measure of a container, awaiting rail evacuation to the Nairobi Inland Container Depot, with four vessels discharging 2,795 containers. 

Acting Managing Director Rashid Salim said KPA aims at completing some of the major projects that have been under construction by year end, to further bolster efficiency and service delivery at the Port.

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