Truckers up in arms over cargo transit plan

Friday, May 29th, 2020 00:00 |
President Uhuru Kenyatta at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Naivasha Inland Container Depot yesterday. PD/John Ochieng

Plans by the government to transport all transit cargo from the Port of Mombasa to Naivasha Inland Container Depot (ICD) through the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) effective June 1, have elicited protest from road transporters.

They have termed the move as a deliberate plan by the government to “kill” the economy of Mombasa.

Last Friday, the government directed that all transit cargo be moved and cleared at the Naivasha ICD for delivery to Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan.

Kenya Transporters Association (KTA) chief executive Dennis Ombok accused the government of overlooking them during decision making on cargo transport matters.

The government said in a statement on Friday 22, that some of the cargo will be moved on the old metre-gauge railway directly to Tororo in eastern Uganda or Kampala, while fuel will be transported by pipeline to Kisumu, Kenya and thereafter by water through Lake Victoria to Portbell in Luzira, Kampala or Jinja.

Ombok dismissed the government’s claims that transporting cargo by railway is cheaper than using trucks.

He made the remarks during a joint briefing convened by Muslim for Human Rights (Muhuri) in collaboration with Okoa Mombasa lobby group.

Hidden costs

“The government does not want to tell the public the hidden costs of using the SGR to ferry containers. If Uganda says its comfortable with cargo going by road, why is the government forcing this mandatory cargo transportation through SGR?” posed Ombok.

Now, the Kenya Long Distance Truck Drivers Association (KLDTDA) has threatened to mobilise its members to stop ferrying cargo from the ICD in Nairobi and Naivasha from next week.

“We will paralyse transportation of cargo from Nairobi and Naivasha ICD if the government fails to rescind the decision,” said Waema.

Civil society groups have also weighed in on the matter asking the government to allow market forces to control the transport business instead of imposing monopolistic policies.

Transit cargo

Muhuri chairman Khelef Khalifa said Mombasa’s economy has shrunk by 12 per cent due to the forced evacuation of all upcountry-bound cargo to Nairobi, warning that the situation is set to worsen if all transit cargo are moved to Naivasha.

“We are not opposed to SGR operations, what we are agitating for is a fair share and competition. Let road transporters be allowed to decide on the mode of transport they want to use,” said Khalifa.

Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia argued that if the government’s plan is effected, it will effectively cut off 600 kilometres that truck drivers would have to drive if they were to pick the goods directly from Mombasa port.

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