The Port of Mombasa is facing a double crisis of Covid-19 pandemic effects and disruption caused by lack of cargo tracking seals.
The problem of the seals emerged after the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) discontinued signing of Electronic Cargo Tracking System (ECTS) certificates for eight companies, which arm cargo with tracking devices on behalf of the authority.
“Apart from having truck drivers’ menace due to measures set to contain spread of Covid-19, we are also experiencing problems in tagging our cargo due to miscommunication between private tracking companies and KRA,” said Abdalla Khamisi, an importer in Mombasa.
“If this is not resolved on time, we are likely to have congestion in different cargo storage facilities which will also add storage charges to us.”
In the past two months, eight private seal vendors- Automated Logistics, Borderless Tracking Ltd, I Spy Africa, Navisat Telematics, Oak & Gold Ltd, Rivercross Tracking Ltd, SGS Kenya and Track N Trace Ltd — have been seeking audience with KRA in trying to resolve the matter which has led to the abrupt suspension of their services leaving hundreds of importers who depend on such vendors to arm their cargo stranded.
According to KRA, no cargo is allowed to leave the Port of Mombasa without a tracking gadget to monitor its movement to its destination to avoid dumping and loss of cargo.
In the correspondence between KRA and the Electronic Cargo Tracking Systems Providers Association of Kenya (EPAK), cargo monitoring division stopped issuing 2020 ECTS certificates to the companies on allegation they failed to monitor cargo resulting to losses. Vendors have, however, dismissed the accusation terming it as witch-hunt.
"The decision KRA has taken will have implication to importers as goods would not move effectively. We are requesting the government to explain how cargo is lost yet the tracking system gives real time view of the cargo on the KRA platform and alerts are sent immediately whenever there is tampering," said EPAK executive officer Flevia Gekone.
"We suspect there is an intention to make vendors appear incompetent yet it is KRA who does not reconcile its reports on daily basis leaving questions how cargo worth of billions can be lost on their watch."
EPAK urged KRA to communicate officially to them regarding the matter since a number of importers are stranded with their cargo waiting to be transported. KRA has noted that a number of vendors have been dumping cargo along the Northern Corridor forcing them to adopt the new Regional Electronic Cargo Tracking Seals (RECTS) which will be offered by the government, pushing the private vendors which have been supplying seals since 2004 to all domestic and transit cargo out of business. KRA said it had procured adequate seals to be used by containerised transporters including tankers transporting transit petroleum and ethanol, leaving the eight private companies in a limbo.
"KRA would like to assure key stakeholders that we shall work round the clock to clear any backlog of waiting transports. The seals are offered to the stakeholders free of charge under KRA RECTS initiative," read the statement.
The KRA in a public notice has already notified importers, transporters, customs agents and other parties conveying goods under Customs control that all containerised transit cargo and Single Customs Territory (SCT) goods from the port, and excisable goods will be tracked under the RECTS seals and all petroleum and ethanol tankers conveying transit and SCT cargo must be fitted with the RECTS Efuel by June 30, 2020.
The new electronic system is in line with the East African Community Management Act (EACCMA) 2004 and it will enable real time tracking of transit cargo from the port to its final destination through an online platform.
The system will only allow one custom entries compared to five in previous tracking system within Kenya and Uganda which caused inconvenience and increased cost of doing business.