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Curfew hits cargo movement as port operations slow

The nation-wide curfew coupled with the closure of borders has slowed down cargo haulage, pushed up transport costs and subsequently threatens commodity prices.

Evacuation of cargo from the Port of Mombasa and the Inland Container Deport-Nairobi has slowed down due to increased truck turnaround time, with imminent port congestion in the short-term.

According to transport and logistics players, truck drivers moving cargo between Mombasa and Nairobi are now taking four days from twenty four hours to move cargo, offload and return the container to the port.

Mombasa–Kampala turnaround time has increased to an average 10 days from four days during normal operations, raising the cost of transportation.

This is due to the dusk-to-dawn curfew and longer periods on clearing of cargo at border points, measures put in place to mitigate the spread of coronavirus.

According to the Long Distance Truck Drivers Association, firms have been forced to increase their work-force for seamless movement.

“Drivers spend more time on the road because they can’t move at night. At the border, they are quarantined for 14 days so you must have at least four drivers to be in business,” the association’s chairman Nicholas Mbugua told the Star yesterday.

There are an average 600 to 1,000 trucks along the Northern Corridor every day, mainly between Mombasa–Nairobi–Kampala, according to Kenya Revenue Authority’s Regional Electronic Cargo Tracking System(RECTS).

This translates to a similar number of 20ft and 40ft containers on transit each day.

The Shippers Council of Eastern Africa (SCEA) has warned of an imminent rise in the cost of transport, which will see businesses pay more for deliveries a cost they will certainly pass onto consumers.

“Truck drivers have to leave the port by 3pm some are unable to move out of the port and ICD. This has disrupted transport,” SCEA chief executive Gilbert Langat said yesterday, “We no-longer have a 24-hour port.”

KPA yesterday said it has been forced to re-organize its shifts, sending staff home on a week-long rotational working plan.

It said the staff is currently coping but warned that if the situation continues, the ports are likely to be swamped with uncollected goods.

“We are now doing two shifts working from six to six instead of three shifts. We are hoping this virus goes away because in the long-run, we will be affected with congestion,” said Hajj Masemo, KPA principal communication officer.

Trucks move up to 60 per cent of cargo from Mombasa to Nairobi and the hinterland with the rest being hauled by the Standard Gauge Railway.

Currently, it takes an average of Sh65,000 to move a 20ft container with goods from Mombasa to Nairobi, by road, with a 40ft container costing Sh85,000.

With the country being a net importer, manufacturers, retailers, and businesses are likely to pay more for the delivery of raw material and finished goods, forcing them to increase their mark-ups hence higher prices for commodities.

SCEA is currently in talks with KPA to allow longer free storage periods of up to 10 days to mitigate costs coming with delays on the roads and border.

“This is an extraordinary situation which needs good mitigation measures,” Langat said.
Source: The Star

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