Shortage of number plates delays new car registration

Imported cars at a yard in Mombasa on November 24, 2017. Photo | Kevin Odit | NMG
Imported cars at a yard in Mombasa on November 24, 2017. Photo | Kevin Odit | NMG 

A shortage of vehicle number plates has hit the Kenyan market, causing a backlog in the clearance of cars at the Mombasa port.

More than 6,000 imported second-hand vehicles are lying at container freight stations (CFS) in Mombasa, and owners are being charged Sh3,000 daily for delayed clearance.

The National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) attributed the shortage of the plates on reduced supply amid an increase in demand for car registration.

“There is a small shortage because of less supplies from Kamiti Maximum Prison.

This should not be a cause for alarm as we expect the situation to normalise soon,” said NTSA director-general Francis Meja.

The law mandates the prisons department to make the plates. 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 check tax evasion by unscrupulous traders through dumping in the local market cars meant for landlocked Uganda and Rwanda.

Storage charges

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.

The storage charges are based on the volume of vehicles and the number of days they take at Mombasa port or at container freight stations.

“CFSs charge an average of Sh3,000 per vehicle per day, an expense the importer should not incur because they have paid import duty and port charges. This means that car owners are being overburdened by NTSA’s inefficiency,” Car Importers Association of Kenya (CIAK) chairman Peter Otieno said yesterday.

He said the authority had delivered 500 plates on Wednesday.

“We did registration for the (KC)D series in December before Christmas and so far registration has been done up to the (KC)K series. Given that each series has 999 vehicles, this means 6,493 units don’t have the plates,” Mr Otieno said.

The NTSA said making manual number plates, which are 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 have affected the introduction of the new plates.

Kenya experienced a similar shortage of number plates in 2013 which saw about 2,500 imported vehicles stuck at the port for about a month.

The country imports about 6,000 used cars monthly, according to dealers.