A shortage of vehicle number plates has hit the Kenyan market, causing a backlog in the clearance of cars at Mombasa port.
The National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) attributed the shortage that started two weeks ago to increased registration of cars that has outpaced supply of number plates.
“Demand is far much higher than supply. There are just too many vehicles being imported into the country, especially second-hand cars,” NTSA director of registration and licensing Jacqueline Githinji told the Business Daily yesterday.
She added that the supply issue will ease after Kamiti Maximum Security Prison, where the number plates are manually made, increases supply.
The law mandates the prisons department to make the plates.
Official data shows that Kenyans bought 15,858 used vehicles in the first quarter of the year, compared to 14,346 units in a similar period of last year, representing a 10.5 per cent growth.
It is mandatory for imported second hand vehicles to be fitted with number plates before leaving the port.
The rule does not affect new vehicles imported by franchise holders who offload and bond the units in customs warehouses awaiting sale.
The rule is meant to deter tax evasion by unscrupulous traders through dumping in the local market cars meant for landlocked Uganda and Rwanda.
The NTSA said making of manual number plates, which is prone to duplication, was slow and that the proposed new-generation, high-tech plates will offer a long-term solution to the supply hitch.
Tendering hiccups has affected the introduction of the high-tech plates.
Kenya experienced a similar shortage of number plates in 2013 that saw about 2,500 imported vehicles stuck at the port for about a month.
The country imports about 6,000 second hand cars monthly, according to dealers.
Dealers said that the shortage had hit them hard as they were forced to incur storage charges at the port amid cash flow hiccups due to delays as some had taken loans.
“We are incurring heavy storage charges as the cars are detained at the port despite having paid duty and customs clearance cash in advance,” said Charles Munyori, the secretary-general of Kenya Auto Bazaar Association, a lobby for second hand car dealers.
The storage charges are based on the volume of vehicles and the number of days they take at the Mombasa port or at container freight stations.
Industry insiders, however, said the number plate problem normally occurs every time a new registration number comes up as importers delay registration to take advantage of the newest numbers.