Shipping & Logistics

Traders face losses as truckers suspend South Sudan business

south

Trucks on the Great North Road which links Kenya and South Sudan. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Summary

  • Traders in South Sudan expect to incur huge losses as hundreds of consignment remain uncollected at the Mombasa port while others have been dumped at the customs yard at the Elegu borderpoint.
  • More than 5,000 truckers have promised to stop hauling South Sudan destined cargo from Mombasa and other port facilities until they are assured of their security.

Traders in South Sudan expect to incur huge losses as hundreds of consignment remain uncollected at the Mombasa port while others have been dumped at the customs yard at the Elegu borderpoint after transporters suspended transport to Juba citing insecurity.

More than 5,000 truckers have promised to stop hauling South Sudan destined cargo from Mombasa and other port facilities until they are assured of their security.

This will not only result in cargo shortage in the country but will add to cost of transportation as the delay will attract demurrage to importers.

According to the Kenya Transporters Association (KTA) chief executive Dennis Ombok, disruptions to cross-border trade is likely to last through the month of September as they need assurance from both Kenyan and South Sudan governments before resuming operations.

“The action to stop ferrying Juba destined cargo is in response to repeated attacks against truck drivers in southern South Sudan since late March. On Sunday this week, five trucks travelling from Kenya to Juba were attacked killing two Kenyan drivers, and there have been no claims of responsibility for the attacks,” said Mr Ombok.

Five trucks were attacked by unknown people at about 5.30pm and two Kenyans were killed while drivers of three other trucks had to flee for their lives.

The group said the continual attacks on their drivers and vandalism of their trucks is taking a toll as many lives have been lost and vehicles and goods destroyed.

On Monday, KTA chairperson Newton Wang’oo issued a statement advising their more than 5,000 members to stop ferrying cargo to South Sudan as a result of insecurity.

“Following increased lawlessness and insecurity along Nimule-Juba highway that has seen several drivers killed and trucks either burnt or vandalised, we wish to advise all transporters not to risk the lives of their drivers and their trucks by continuing to offer transport services to South Sudan as the country remains highly volatile,” the statement says.

Mr Wang’oo cautioned those already en route to deliver the goods to the customs yard at Elegu border and asked the South Sudanese government to immediately take measures to protect drivers already in that country.

He also urged Juba to compensate for the lives and properties lost in the recent attacks.

A month ago, KTA had raised concern after a Kenyan driver was killed by armed men while heading to Juba.

Cases of attacks along the highway have been rampant and this is the second time KTA is suspending services this year as a result of insecurity.

Mombasa port has remained the main facility used by South Sudan. Kenya Ports Authority data indicates it is only second to Uganda in the volume of its cargo imported through the port.

In October last year, armed men demanded thousands of dollars as ransom after kidnapping two Uganda drivers and killed two others along Juba-Nimule Road. In May, three Uganda drivers were killed along Juba-Kaya Highway.

In April, truck drivers stopped ferrying goods to South Sudan due to increasing crime along Yei-Juba route where two Kenyans were killed and their trucks torched.

KTA resumed carrying cargo after the Kenyan and South Sudan governments assured them of their security.

However, after numerous negotiations among Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan authorities, they agreed the drivers would be escorted by South Sudanese soldiers to ensure their security.

The agreement was reached following a huge accumulation of goods at the Elegu border, while goods were running out of stock in Juba.

Last week, a road ambush on a passenger vehicle along Juba-Nimule highway left two dead.

South Sudanese officials are likely to prioritise security along major routes and near crossing points over the near term.

South Sudan relies on cross-border transport for the delivery of goods. The suspension of cargo transport may result in shortages of some commodities in South Sudan over the coming weeks.