Companies

Car importers caught in KPA, private port fight

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Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) Acting MD John Mwangemi inside the Lamu Port in Lamu County. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NMG

Car importers who had selected Unifreight cargo handlers have been caught in a fight between the private port owner and Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) which has blocked clearance of their vehicles for almost a month.

A car dealer who requested anonymity said KPA blocked all vehicles imported through the container freight station (CFS) over a longstanding debt dispute with Unifreight.

KPA confirmed the ongoing dispute but said talks are ongoing to unlock the stalemate over the next couple of days.

The agency did not disclose how much it is owed and Unifreight had not responded to our queries by the time of going to press.

“KPA are working with Unifreight CFS to resolve this long outstanding matter. And we expect to conclude in the coming days,” KPA acting managing director John Mwangemi said.

The delay has hit car importers, locking out units and affecting their cash flow at a time when the sector is struggling with a spike in import prices and global supply disruptions.

The importers who had nominated Unifreight as their CFS on their shipping documents have no option but to keep pressing KPA and the company to resolve their issue as they cannot change the recipient of their vehicles.

“We as clients have our cars stranded for the last three weeks and no one is hearing us out. As clients, we do not have any debts but KPA is using us as their hostages and negotiating strength with Unifreight,” said the car dealer who requested anonymity.

Car dealers are facing increased competition from buyers in source markets such as Japan and the UK, as automakers have scaled-down production owing to shortages of semiconductors used in electronic devices.

Most buyers in the developed markets would typically buy new cars but have now resorted to purchasing second-hand models in response to shortages.

Economic uncertainty brought by the Covid-19 pandemic has also seen consumers in the developed world keep their cars for longer than usual, further reducing supplies to Kenya, which relies on imports.

Used car prices in Kenya have jumped by an average of 37 percent over the past six months as demand outstrips supply globally on production cuts, pushing small cars like Nissan Note and Toyota Vitz above the one million shilling mark.

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