Cargo firms blamed for pile-up at depot

Members of the Parliamentary Committee on Trade, Industry and Cooperatives inspect goods during a tour of the Nairobi Inland Container Depot to assess the cargo clearance process last month. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]
The companies that import goods on behalf of small-scale traders are now coming into focus as delays continue to mar cargo clearance at Nairobi’s Inland Container Depot (ICD).

Referred to as consolidators, the firms are now being blamed for failing to clear their cargo despite a process to fast-track clearance of goods that had been held at the depot on concerns that they had not met required quality.

The consolidators pool together cargo from different traders who do not have the capacity to fill up containers and import on their own.

The Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) noted that a number of the companies had not turned up to claim their containers, raising concern on their contents.

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Kebs and other agencies have been fast-tracking the clearance of containers following a May directive by President Uhuru Kenya to release cargo to the traders.

“We have tried all possible ways to comply with the Head of State’s directive … the challenge we have had is that the consolidators have not come forward to claim their containers and we cannot clear goods if they are not around… the small-scale traders have given their goods to a consolidator, but they are not able to clear the goods.” said Kebs Acing Managing Director Bernard Njiraini in an interview with The Standard.

“Those that have not shown up had perhaps misdeclared the goods that they had in the containers.”

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Of the about 1,000 containers that were being held at the port, only about 410 have been released to their owners so far.

Following reinspection of the cargo, Kebs said, it had found some products such as electrical cables and edible oils had not met the required standards.

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Imports are inspected at the ports of origin under the Pre–export Verification of Conformity (PVoC) programme.

Mr Njiraini said the agency would begin vetting consolidators following the recent delays in cargo clearance as well as concerns raised by the traders.

“We will begin a process to vet consolidators afresh so that we don’t have businesses that are misleading the public. KRA and Kebs have set up a committee developing a framework within which this will be undertaken,” he said.

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