Kenya has handed cross-border importers 30-day free storage at the newly-launched Naivasha inland container depot (ICD) as it moves to cut trucking distance and reduce exposure to Covid-19 within its territory.
The free cargo storage period at the Naivasha ICD given by the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) in a review unveiled Monday, is double the 14 days being offered to importers who choose to pick their cargo from Mombasa port or Nairobi ICD.
While Kenya has been keen on moving transit cargo to Naivasha since its launch of direct standard gauge railway freight services from Mombasa last year, the high number of truck drivers testing positive for Covid-19 has hastened the process.
KPA acting managing director Rashid Salim said the temporary cost reprieve for international traders would last 90 days from Monday, with a further review dependent on changes in business dynamics in the face of the biting Covid-19 crisis.
"This (review) is in line with our continuous and deliberate efforts of cushioning our customers from effects of coronavirus, which have impacted the whole transport logistics chain," he said in a notice.
The new charges come hardly one week after the East African Community (EAC) Secretariat asked the Mombasa and Dar ports to go easy on “time-limit" between customs office of departure to the customs of office of exit.” Under the changes, the free cargo storage period for import goods on transit has from Monday been extended to 14 days at the Mombasa port and Nairobi ICD, up from the current nine days.
Exporters from regional countries using Mombasa port to ship out goods have been offered 20 days of free storage from 15 days.
The KPA has, however, retained the free cargo time for domestic imports at four days, while that for domestic exports has been raised to 15 days from nine days. The temporary relief falls short of last month's calls by importers on the 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.
The EAC Secretariat has also asked partner states to consider waiving ports and border handling charges on essential items as Covid-19 containment measures prolong cargo clearance.
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.
Border congestions have, however, been exacerbated by tighter checks after countries such as Kenya sealed off their borders with Tanzania and Somalia, except for cargo trucks.