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KPA set to hasten return of empty cargo containers

Murimi Mutiga @murimimutiga

Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) is set to start receiving empty containers on 24 hours basis at the Inland Container Depot (ICD) in Nairobi in an attempt to speed up the return of the containers to the shipping lines.

This follows outcry by a number of shippers that delays in hauling back empty containers to the Port of Mombasa have exposed their businesses to high demurrage charges. Receiving empty containers will be undertaken from Monday to Saturday.

Importers are supposed to return containers to designated yards in Mombasa within 14 days for domestic cargo and up to 45 days for transit goods, failure to which they start accruing storage charges, also known as demurrage. 

A 20-foot container is charged Sh1,000 demurrage charges per day after the expiry of the free period while the 40-foot container attracts demurrage fee of Sh 2,000 per day. Shipping lines have been counting the free days period beginning from when containers are offloaded at the port.

However, with all Nairobi bound containers being hauled through  Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) to the Embakasi ICD, importers say transportation of containers back to Mombasa has been taking long. 

Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association (KIFWA) former chairman Peter Otieno said since the start of the SGR cargo services, shippers have raked in billions of shillings in demurrage charges due to delayed return of the empty containers.

Shipping lines

“The confusion that came with SGR made shipping lines go all the way to the bank smiling. They have collected demurrage charges in billions and this has made SGR very unpopular with importers. Many of them are using SGR because they are being forced by the government to use it,” he claimed.

KPA has been lobbying for the counting of free days for the containers to start when containers land at the ICD instead of the port. 

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