Kenya Railways (KR) has shrugged off concerns raised by a section of shippers on the directive compelling upcountry and landlocked country importers to use the standard gauge railway (SGR). The government has now made it clear that there is no going back on the directive saying it is the only way of ensuring a smooth flow of cargo to inland container depot (ICD) for the benefit of all players in the sector. Importers based in the capital city and locations beyond it have been ordered to start collecting their cargo from Nairobi’s ICD in Embakasi instead of Mombasa port. “KPA and KR will facilitate to ensure that the cargo owners and other relevant information will go a long way into enabling a smooth flow of cargo to ICD for the benefit of cargo owners, your customers,” said KRC in a letter addressed to Kenya Ships Agents Associationdated February 17th.
The new directive
The new directive comes barely two weeks after the government denied claims by shippers that it was trying to force them to use SGR despite poor infrastructure links at the ICD.
The Nairobi section of the SGR, completed last year at a princely US $3.2bn cost launched its freight service in January but had to suspend the daily service amid dwindling cargo volumes.
In a memo dated February 20, global shipping firm Maersk Line East Africa has also notified its customers that their cargo will henceforth be rerouted to the ICD. “Please note that all an-nominated containers for Nairobi and beyond will have their delivery changed to ICD via the SGR freight service in reference to the attached circular from Kenya Railways and Kenya Ports Authority,” Maersk Line East Africa said in the notice.
Efficient movement of cargo
“Kenya Railways and Kenya Ports Authority will facilitate the efficient movement of cargo from Mombasa port to Nairobi ICD Embakasi via the SGR.”
The government’s unilateral decision to transport all imports coming in through Mombasa port on the SGR to Nairobi’s ICD in Embakasi had been opposed by clearing and forwarding agents.
In a letter dated February 17 and addressed to the Kenya Ports Authority, the Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association national secretary Ahmed Simbwa said the move was illegal as it was implemented without prior consultation with stakeholders.
It noted that in as much as the association fully backed the SGR freight services, importers should have been given a right to choose whether or not to use the service.