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Number plate hitch heaps losses on used car importers

Used vehicles on sale at a yard in Mombsa. file photo | nmg
Used vehicles on sale at a yard in Mombsa. file photo | nmg 

Nearly 4,000 used vehicles are stuck at the port of Mombasa after their importers failed to secure local number plates needed to operate on Kenyan roads.

Motor industry insiders said the country has been experiencing an acute shortage of number plates arising from the manual production at the Kamiti Maximum Prisons.

Car Importers Association (CIA) said the shortage, which is costing them thousands of shillings in demurrage charges at the port, has persisted since September last year.

The National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA), the sector regulator, has registered 3,996 units whose number plates are yet to be delivered, importers said.

CIA chairman Peter Otieno said the NTSA’s February’s pledge that supply will be stable by April, which was later pushed back to July 1, failed to materialise, resulting in increased storage and demurrage costs for importers.

Mr Otieno added that the NTSA has also failed to honour its promise to issue stickers with details of the vehicles at the time of registration to allow the Kenya Revenue Authority to release them and save the importers mounting storage costs.

“We accepted that and we have been very quiet, but July has started, nothing has changed, there are no stickers, the actual number plates are not there, we don’t know what to do and we are incurring storage (charges),” he told the Business Daily on the phone. “Why should we incur storage for somebody’s inefficiency?”

The storage costs for the smallest unit at Container Freight Station is as much as Sh3,000 a day, Mr Otieno said, translating to Sh11.988 million for the units presently at the port.

NTSA director for registration and licensing Jacqueline Githinji admitted the country can only produce about 1,000 plates against a demand of more than 3,000 vehicles. She, however, said that supply has only outstripped demand in the last two months.

“The registrations are ahead of the number plates and, therefore, that causes a problem. The supply is affected by the technology of producing the old plates which is manual and they (Kamiti Prisons) can’t use machines,” Ms Githinji told the Business Daily on phone.

“With the modern technology, they should use an automated machine to emboss the number.”

Dutch firm J Knieriem in March won a court case where it had in December challenged last September’s award of Sh1 billion tender to Ugandan and Kenyan firms for supply of materials for proposed new generation number plates.

The firm had argued that it had been excluded from the re-evaluation of bids where the Kenyan firm Tropical Technologies won the Sh1 billion deal to supply blank plates, while the hot stamping foil deal went to Uganda’s MIG International, which bid Sh140 million.