24th July 2024
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Kenya threatens to sell off Juba-bound cargo stuck in its depots

Author: The EastAfrican | Published: Saturday, July 6, 2024

Offloading of Cargo in one of the Vessels that docked at Mombasa Port, Kenya on March 06, 2024. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NMG

Some cargo destined for South Sudan has been earmarked for auctioning in Kenya if it is not moved by July 31.

The owners of the 85 lots of cargo destined for South Sudan and some to Kenya, blame unscrupulous clearing and forwarding agents, insecurity and recent clearing cargo directives for the overstay in different warehouses in Nairobi.

In a Gazette Notice, the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) Customs and Border Control Department Chief Manager George Aduwi announced the measures in accordance with the provisions of Section 42 of the East African Community Customs Management Act.

“Notice is given that, unless the under mentioned goods are entered and removed from the custody of Customs Warehouse Keeper, Inland Container Depot Nairobi within 30 days of this notice, they may be sold by public auction on July 31, August 1 and 2, via online auction. Interested buyers may view the goods at the specific locations indicated on July 29 and 30, during office hours,” Mr Aduwi said in the notice.

The goods range from building materials to pharmaceuticals, raw materials and used clothes.

Customs usually dispose of goods not lawfully removed from the customs warehouses after a certain period, or unclaimed goods to decongest the warehouses.

“The government of South Sudan has been introducing a number of directives and insecurity on the Northern Corridor in Nimule and Bantiu has affected the flow of cargo from Kenya to the country,” said Edwin Karissa, a Mombasa-based clearing agent.

Juba has come up with terms some traders vies as cumbersome to business, including a demand of $350 as payment for the new tracking measures by Electronic Cargo Tracking Note (ECTN) to all importers and exporters.

South Sudan’s Minister of Finance and Planning Dr Bak Barnaba Chol informed shippers on the new charges and appointed Invesco Uganda Ltd, under supervision by the Customs Revenue Division of the South Sudan Revenue Authority (SSRA), to run the programme, but traders moved to court to block its implementation.

A SSRA official in Mombasa- Samwel Bolis, accused unscrupulous clearing agents in Kenya of swindling traders and leaving cargo stuck in warehouses.

“We have received a number of complaints from clients in South Sudan who were swindled of their money by middlemen promising to clear their cargo in Kenya, and this has contributed to the cargo earmarked for auction. We have asked KRA to share details of such goods and communicate to our traders to find means to get them out before auction,” Mr Bolis said.

“Going forward, we are compiling names of credible clearing and forwarding agents, who will be allowed to clear South Sudan cargo, with their fees paid through bank accounts for easier traceability.”

Cargo through the port of Mombasa destined for South Sudan has been increasing in the past four years, growing threefold from 769,886 metric tonnes in 2019 to 1.92 million metric tonnes in 2023, according to Kenya Ports Authority 2023 Annual Review and Bulletin of Statistics.

South Sudan is the second country in East Africa using Mombasa port after Uganda, which last year recorded a decline in cargo through port.

Uganda-bound cargo passing through Mombasa port declined by more than 200,000 metric tonnes, but other regional States recorded a significant increase in cargo in 2023.

Uganda, which has for many years been recording the highest transit traffic of cargo through the Mombasa port, recorded a total throughput of 7,115,079MT of goods last year, compared to 7,319,408 MT in 2022.

Tanzania-bound cargo handled in Mombasa increased from 235,531MT in 2022 to 312,871MT last year, attributed to the inefficiencies at the Dar es Salaam port, whereas that destined for DR Congo shot up from 962,888MT to 1,510,979 MT last year.

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