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Mystery of contaminated sugar in warehouse

Some of the contaminated sugar that was destroyed in 2018. [File, Standard]

Fresh details have emerged about the 780.2 metric tonnes of contaminated sugar stored at the privately owned Mitchell Cotts Container Freight Station (CFS) in Mombasa.

On Sunday, The Standard established that the contaminated sugar, part of the consignment that arrived in Mombasa from Mauritius on October 9, 2023, has not been released to the market.

It is part of the sugar shipped into the country, inside forty-six 20-foot containers, aboard the container carrier MSC Eagle F, that ran aground as she approached the Kilindini channel.

During the incident that was widely reported by the local and international media, the Liberian-flagged ship partially sunk for over twenty-four hours outside the Kilindini channel.

It took the combined efforts of the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) and a private ship-building firm, Southern Engineering Company (SECO), to refloat the ship to avert a marine ecological disaster at the channel.

However, during the offloading of the sugar on October 12 and 13, 2023 at the Port of Mombasa, it was noticed that several containers had been affected by the water seepage when the ship ran aground.

On December 6, 2023, the exporter in Mauritius issued a letter of indemnity authorising the transfer of the containers to Mitchell Cotts CFS for the survey exercise to proceed.

Mitchell Cotts CFS director in charge of operations James Rarieya, said the importer was duly notified of this matter for subsequent follow-up with the ship’s agent and their insurers.

“To determine the extent of the water intrusion on the cargo, it was necessary to strip all 46 containers in a warehouse and separate the bags as appropriate,” said Mr Rarieya yesterday.

He said that on January 9, 2024, the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) Customs Department gave conditions under which the stripping of the containers was to be carried out.

“On January 11, 2024, the exercise was done in the presence of officials from the KRA Customs Department, Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), SGS, Port Health, and the ship’s agent M/s Ocean Freight East Africa,” he said.

Rarieya explained that during the stripping, 8,025 waterlogged bags or 780.2 metric tonnes from 13 containers were found and were segregated and stored in warehouses pending destruction, which will be done under the supervision of the relevant authorities.

The other 19,411 sound bags from 33 containers are presently also stored in
warehouses awaiting the requisite laboratory and quality assurance test results from KEBS prior to release authorization by KRA.

“Subsequently, a seizure notice was procedurally issued by the Port Health Services Department for the 8,025 waterlogged bags from 13 containers. These were segregated and stored in our warehouses pending destruction, which will be done under the supervision of the relevant authorities,” he said

“The other 19,411 sound bags from 33 containers are presently also stored in warehouses awaiting the requisite laboratory and quality assurance test results from KEBS before release authorization by KRA,” he added.

The Mitchell Cotts management reiterated that no contaminated sugar has been released from its facilities to the local market, as suggested in the media.

“Engagements with all the regulatory and oversight authorities continue to be maintained per established and standard procedures and protocols,” said Rarieya.

He reiterated that Mitchell Cotts was committed to upholding the utmost integrity as a fundamental operating value in all its engagements as the leading end-to-end logistics solutions provider.

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