Confusion mars release of traders’ cargo from depot

Parliamentary Committee on Trade, Industry and Cooperatives Chairman Kanini Kega (left) and Nairobi Importers and Small-scale Traders Association Chairman Ben Mutahi inspect a container at the Nairobi Inland Container Depot when the House committee toured the facility last week. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Only 201 containers belonging to small-scale traders have been released from the Embakasi Inland Container Depot (ICD) following a presidential directive to clear them within three weeks issued in May.

Confusion has marred the process, with conflicting figures of the exact number of containers slated for release ahead of an amnesty that expires in a month’s time.

State House said the delay had been occasioned by some of the containers being underdeclared, with one being owned by up to 30 traders.

Eighty-four of the containers contained edible oil that had been banned as it was deemed unfit for human consumption.

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State House spokesperson Kanze Dena said the traders had presented a list of only 676 containers to officials at the facility, which was at variance with an earlier list of 1,000 containers given to President Uhuru Kenyatta.

“Originally, we had been told there were only 1,000 containers. However, right now what has been brought forth by the small traders is 676 containers,” she said at a press briefing at State House, Nairobi.

“Of the 676 containers, approximately over 200 have been cleared,” she added.

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But for their part, the traders said the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) had given a fresh list, putting the number of their containers at 935.

President Kenyatta made an impromptu visit to the ICD in May where he directed the responsible agencies to speed up the cargo clearance so that “the people can go on with their businesses”.

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He promised to return to the facility after three weeks to follow up on progress made in clearing the cargo.

This is after small traders and importers complained to him that their goods had been held for months under the guise of new tough rules introduced to fight counterfeits.

The crackdown, especially in downtown Nairobi had forced some traders to close shop. At yesterday’s briefing, Miss Dena said President Kenyatta was keenly tracking the process of releasing the containers.

Importers and Small Traders Association Chairman Samuel Karanja lamented that some containers had been released but could not be collected as traders were unable to pay shipping lines and Container Freight Stations (CFSs) charges.

“Out of 935 containers, 201 have been collected. There are also some that have been released and not collected due to CFS and shipping lines costs,” said Karanja.

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Daily storage costs, which are paid to the Kenya Ports Authority; Kenya Revenue Authority and the owners of the containers, cumulatively total Sh15,000.

Considering that some of the containers have been detained for over 300 days, the storage costs alone could easily have exceeded the value of the consignment.

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Kenya Bureau of StandardsState HouseEmbakasi