New report queries slow cargo clearance at Busia border


Tankers at Busia border. A new report says Busia weighbridge registered the lowest performance compared to the rest along the northern transport corridor in the first quarter of the year. PHOTO | FILE

Busia border point has fallen behind the volumes, speed and compliance targets set by the Mombasa Port Community Charter, putting the border town on the spot as industry players look to increase efficiency on the northern corridor.

According to the Northern Corridor Performance Dashboard report, a tool developed by industry players to monitor efficiency on the transnational route, Busia not only had the least traffic in the first quarter but was also slowest in clearing cargo. The border post also had the lowest level of weight compliance.

“All the weighbridges except Busia along the Nothern Corridor are implementing the high speed weigh-in-motion and only trucks that fail are diverted to the static scale,” the report reads.

The quarter one report shows that an average of 424 trucks crossed the weighbridge at Kenya’s Busia border with Uganda in the three months to March.

This is low compared to an average of 929 at Webuye, 2,633 at Gilgil, 2,410 at Mariakani and 5,752 at Athi River weighbridges, which registered the highest traffic due to cargo originating from Mombasa, Nairobi and its environs as well as cargo from Tanzania through Namanga.

Busia was also slow in the estimated period of the time a release order is generated at the Mombasa port to the time an export certificate is issued at the crossing of the border at Uganda.

This was, however, attributed to the fact that sections of the route are under construction posing delay to cargo transport.

“Time to Busia has indicatively showed a negative performance from 6.5 days to 10.6 days in January to March 2016,” the report read.

On the contrary, transit time from Mombasa to Malaba significantly improved from 9.1 days to 7.3 days in the months of February to May.

Kenya has committed to a target of three days for goods to move from Mombasa to its borders.

Logistic firms are also more likely to attempt cheating at Busia weighbridge which found that 22 per cent of vehicles weighed did not comply with load limits as opposed to marginal noncompliance of le than eight per cent at Webuye, Athi River, Gilgil and Mariakani.

“The weighbridges have shown a fluctuation in performance within the respective months, however, Busia weighbridge registers the lowest performance as compared to the rest of the weighbridges.

Primarily, all trucks weighed should be 100 per cent compliant except for a few cases,” the report reads.

The struggle to increase cargo processing speed and efficiency along the Northern corridor has gained prominence in the battle between the Mombasa and Dar es Salam ports to control trade in the hinterland.

Rwanda’s indication that it could opt to develop rail links to Indian Ocean ports through Tanzania because they were cheaper and shorter than the route transiting Kenya, has threatened Nairobi’s strategic influence as it seeks to complete its new rail network.

Tanzania has reportedly seen a decrease in cargo volume at the Dar es Salam port in the period between December, last year and March, 2015 due to introduction of value added tax on transit goods, Single Customs Territory system and slow down of the Chinese economy.

Cargo transport to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) decreased from 5,529 to 4,092 containers for the period under review, which is equivalent to 26 per cent.

The amount of cargo heading to Malawi decreased from 337 to 265 containers, while those on transit to Zambia, noted a decrease of the cargo from 6,859 to 4,448.

Kenya’s Mombasa port on the other hand saw 18,106 twenty-foot equivalent unit in January, 17,890 in February and 15,583 in March, according to the report.

The dwelling time for cargo clearance at the port has improved to 4.5 days although it falls short of the three-day target set by the government and private sector stakeholders.

Time taken at the document processing centre also showed a marked improvement from 3.8 hours to 3.1 hours from January to March.

“The performance is still off the target of two hours. Any further delays in documentation due to either Simba system stability, document volumes awaiting processing in between the shifts, the quality of declaration by agents implies a rise in logistics cost hence a rise in commodity prices,” the report noted.

The Northern Corridor Performance Dashboard recommended the implementation of pre-arrival clearance to clear 70 per cent of the cargo within a span of 48 hours before docking of vessels should be prioritised to achieve the target in the charter.

New guidelines

The Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) entered into an agreement with private container freight stations (CFSs) in 2011 to help decongest the port, where CFS operators are required to clear cargo within 48 hours after being discharged from a vessel.

The KPA has already issued the new container handling rules for importers and exporters for inspection of cargo in the first country of entry.

The shipping line and agents will now lodge the sea manifest 48 hours before estimated time of arrival of the vessel for long hauls and for short hauls it will be six hours before to the Kenya Revenue Authority Manifest Management System, which is validated to ensure that it conforms to standards.

Kenya in an effort to strategically position itself to capture the multi-billion regional trade is also upgrading the single transit system currently under the Simba platform with TradeMark East Africa.

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