Shipping & Logistics

New technologies cut down transit cost and time

Containers at the Kenya Ports Authority  terminal. Adoption of new technologies has led to improved efficiency.  PHOTO | FILE
Containers at the Kenya Ports Authority terminal. Adoption of new technologies has led to improved efficiency. PHOTO | FILE |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

Logistics firms are benefiting from recently introduced cost-and-time saving technologies.

Mandatory technologies like the Single Window System (SWS) and Electronic Cargo Tracking Systems (ECTS) are helping firms to cut transportation costs and increase speed of cross-border transactions.

The SWS which allows submission, receipting and processing of cargo documents electronically at a single entry point was introduced by the Kenya Trade Networks Agency to speed up import and export trade. It was launched in May last year by three East African Presidents.

The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) had on the other hand introduced the ECTS in 2013 to track transiting cargo, getting minute by minute reports.

“The SWS has radically changed how we do business. It has eliminated the multiple agents in the clearance process, particularly for transit cargo,” said Mr Job Kemboi, Transport Manager at Siginon Global Logistics.

Siginon Global Logistics and Bollore Africa Logistics are some of the international firms that had already embraced varied technologies before the State issued the new directive. Their executives said the introduction of the mandatory requirement across most of East Africa have reduced their costs by as much as Sh72,000 per trip.

“The Single Window System has shortened the time that traders and agents take to get clearance from 24 State agencies,” said Bollore Logistics regional chief executive Jason Reynard.

“Additionally, it has successfully tackled dumping that was a problem faced by both authorities and importers. This has obviously reduced delays in transit because there is no longer need for inspections and physical escorts that used to drag shipping time by up to four days.”

Unlike their local counterparts who have recently hit headlines as they protest the implementation, the adoption of the two mandatory technologies has been fairly easy for the multinational firms owing to their uptake of innovations.

Besides the two, Siginon is for instance using the Vehicle Display Output (VDO) system which tracks cargo and trucks plying long distance routes, giving real-time updates on their location. The firm’s executives said the system had mainly attracted oil and gas customers due to the delicate nature of their cargo.

“The VDO system picks up driver behaviour like in cases where emergency brakes are applied and provides a good reference point on issues such as reckless driving,” Mr Kemboi said, adding that the technology also enables the firm to identify the root causes of accidents.

On the other hand, Bollore Africa Logistics has adopted LINK, a software enabling its customers to track their cargo real time.

“Using LINK, customers globally can access full details of a shipment at their desktop and even using their mobile phones because an app version of the same is available on Google Play and I-Tunes Store,” said Mr Reynard.

Other technologies the firm boasts of include electronic seal fitted with a GSM enabled tracking device that alerts authorities and cargo owner in case the custom bonded goods are tampered with, or if the vehicle makes unexpected stop or turn. This, Mr Reynard said helps the parties concerned to respond to the situation immediately.

“In the past, transit vehicles would wait three to four days for an escort to be available. Each extra day could cost the transporter up to Sh18,000 ($200) resulting in higher cost of goods,” said Mr Reynard.