Cargo agents push for deferral of online clearance system

The Kenya Ports Authority’s container terminal. FILE
The Kenya Ports Authority’s container terminal. FILE 

Traders have expressed fears that the shift to an electronic platform across East Africa to eliminate paper work will disrupt business.

A section of clearing and forwarding agents say they have not prepared adequately for the changes, which could adversely affect their operations.

“There seems to be a rush to roll out the project before information is passed to users effectively,” said William Ojonyo, the CEO of Keynote Logistics.

He appealed to the government to put the project on hold until more agents are informed of the impending changes.

The Kenya Trade Network (Kentrade) started trials in October that enable traders access and pay for pre-clearance documents like impending arrival reports, import declaration forms and import/export permits online through the single electronic window system.

“Kentrade is currently processing live transactions with selected groups during this piloting phase ending January 31, before phased roll-out to all groups and stations begin,” the State agency said in a statement.

“We expect to incrementally expand the system to enable access to other documents like the sea/air manifest and declaration.”

Mr Ojonyo said most clearing and forwarding agents had not been sensitised on the changes, yet they were critical to the new system’s success.

“We don’t want to find ourselves in a situation where Kenya has backlog in the shared custom territory when Rwandese and Ugandans are efficient because they understand their systems,” Mr Ojonyo said last week.

Kentrade said 1,610 end-users from different segments of the economy have already been trained, adding that application for second phase of training would be invited in the coming weeks.

The trainees , the agency added, were nominated by institutions such as Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association, Kenya Ships Association Agents, container freight stations, ground handlers of cargo at the airport.

The exporters and importers’ lobbies and private sector organisations in insurance and banking have also forwarded a list of workers involved in cargo clearance for training, Kentrade said in a statement.

The single window system is expected to eliminate inefficiencies, wastage and delays currently experienced at the Mombasa port, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) cargo terminals and border posts.

The government is banking on the project that seeks to integrate cargo clearance and trade logistics processes as one way of improving Kenya’s global and regional competitiveness.

The World Bank’s 2014 Ease of Doing Business report shows that Kenya had dropped by seven points from position 122 in 2012/2013 to 129 in 2013/2014 while Rwanda which relies on Kenyan ports for import clearance had improved by 22 points from number 54 to 32.