The East African Community (EAC) Secretariat has asked partner states to consider waiving ports and border handling charges on essential items as Covid-19 containment measures prolong cargo clearance in the region.
The regional organ also wants border and port officials to shun local currencies in favour of US dollars and electronic payments to ease goods clearance.
"Under the prevailing circumstances, it might take longer for some goods in transit to reach exit customs offices. Customs administrations are required to waive the time-limit between customs office of departure to the customs of office of exit”, the Arusha-based EAC secretariat says in latest administrative guidelines on the coronavirus pandemic period.
"Shipping lines are urged to waive charges on container delays during this pandemic period.”
The directive comes just weeks after importers asked the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) to increase the free cargo period from four to 11 days for local consignments and from nine days to 21 days for transit imports.
Importers appealed to the Kenya Ship Agents Association to raise the free demurrage period from nine days to 15 days for local cargo and to at least 40 days from the current 28 days for transit goods to cut rising costs as a result of partial trade lockdowns and travel restrictions.
"Different agencies have taken measures to comply with the Ministry of Health recommendations to control the spread of Covid-19. However, this has slowed movement of goods from the port of Mombasa to different countries resulting in high demurrages,” importers said in a statement late last month.
Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda recently reached a deal for testing of truck drivers for Covid-19 at the point of departure to ease tailbacks that had built at border points after each nation had insisted on separately conducting mandatory testing. Truck drivers are now required to produce coronavirus-free certificates at points of exit.