Cargo owners were allowed to clear their goods from the Internal Container Depot (ICD) in Nairobi across the weekend as the government moved to entice more business on the newly built standard gauge railway.
Officers from the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) cleared cargo at the facility on Saturday and Sunday—handing traders more flexibility.
“You are advised to make use of the extended working hours to ensure the goods are cleared and delivered to the customers” the taxman said in a statement announcing the offer.
The increased activity at the ICD has been due to a series of efforts by the government, including a directive by Kenya Railways for importers based in Nairobi and beyond to start collecting their cargo from Nairobi’s ICD in Embakasi instead of the Mombasa port.
This has pushed up the activity at the depot that was recently upgraded to the tune of Sh23 billion— to handle 450,000 twenty-foot containers annually.
The Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) less than a fortnight ago slashed container handling charges for a 20-foot local container at the inland container depot (ICD) in Embakasi to Sh8,160 ($80) from Sh10,506 ($103).
Shipping firms including Maersk Line East Africa have also notified its customers that their cargo will henceforth be rerouted to the ICD.
“Please note that all an-nominated containers for Nairobi and beyond will have their delivery changed to ICD via the SGR freight service in reference to the attached circular from Kenya Railways and Kenya Ports Authority,” Maersk Line East Africa said in a notice seen by Saturday Nation last month.
Early last year, the KRA quest to have at least 40 per cent of cargo arriving at the port of Mombasa transported to Nairobi on the SGR met resistance from transporters and importers.
Even with the push to have its agencies use SGR for freight, the government has yet to address the shippers’ concerns that they are being forced to use the railway line.
A government directive for all State ministries, agencies and departments to transport cargo on the service will see more traffic land at the depot.
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua said in a March 7 circular that “all cargo imported and/or exported by government agencies, including cargo for projects undertaken by third parties, must be moved on SGR.”
Movement of any cargo between Mombasa and Nairobi by any other means shall require written consent from the Transport Principal Secretary, Mr Kinyua said.
According to the circular, ministries, agencies and departments (MDAs) are also required to declare the cargo being moved in the current financial year to the managing director of Kenya Railways and the Transport PS within 10 days.
The directive will come into effect from the beginning of next month.
According to the KPA, the rail transport evacuated 1,813 20-foot containers up from 1,168 in the week ending March 7, registering a growth of 55.22 per cent.