Naivasha ICD roars back as importers stick to SGR


A view of Naivasha Inland Container Depot (ICD) in this picture taken on January 17, 2022. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG

Loose cargo sent to the Naivasha Inland Container Depot from Mombasa port via the standard gauge railway (SGR) almost tripled in the three months to May this year, as the facility shrugged off President William Ruto's order that returned most port services to the coastal city.

A new traffic report by the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) shows Naivasha received 4,530 tonnes of loose cargo in May, up from 1,670 tonnes that included wheat, maize and fertiliser.

Dr Ruto took back port operations to Mombasa and gave importers the free will to choose the road or railway in a directive that gave truckers a fighting chance in competing with the SGR.

The report shows that the Naivasha facility recorded an increase in conventional cargo compared to containerised consignment with grain and fertiliser boosting throughput.

In April, there was a sharp increase in throughput to 3,662 tonnes, while in May cargo handled hit 4,530 tonnes.

This is an indication of the shift and success of end-to-end rail cargo movement on the SGR compared to roads due to high costs.

Total Grain Bulk Handlers (GBHL) throughput in 20-foot equivalent units (containers) also improved from 358 in March to 446 in April but fell to 444 in May.

Since March this year, the facility has received 116 containers of imports compared to 54 in the previous months, while April and May recorded 118 and 178 respectively.

Despite the Kenya Railways Corporation's promotional tariffs, only a few traders are using the rail to return empty containers to the port.

Numbers have been declining since January when 173 containers were recorded, dropping sharply to 34 in February and just 13 in May.

In terms of the number of containers received at the Naivasha ICD for export, throughput remained average, reflecting the recent agreement between the Kenya Tea Development Agency and KRC to export tea and other inputs.

Data shows that GBHL continues to be the main company using the facility, handling large volumes of bulk cargo such as grain, wheat, fertiliser and other commodities on behalf of millers.

KRC launched freight operations on the SGR in December 2017.

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