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Imports: How to beat hurdles at the port

By Dominic Omondi | June 10th 2021

The first cargo ship, Alianco offloads containers at Lamu Port on May 20, 2021.[Omondi Onyango,Standard]

In our final series of the process of importing goods, we look at what a trader should expect at the port of discharge for example Mombasa Port. 

So, you have agreed and made payments, is it time to sail to the port of discharge in Mombasa or Lamu? Not so fast.

There are still a few businesses to take care of before the goods are loaded on the ship.

1. Obtain a Certificate of Conformity (COC): COC is a requirement by the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs). It is generated from a Pre-shipment verification of conformity to standards (PVOC). Kebs have appointed agents in various regions- Europe, Asia, Far East who carry verification on its behalf having been given a matrix of required standards for the different products coming to Kenya. These agents will have to verify if the imported product conforms to the standards required by Kebs.

2.      The planning process: Once the ship has started sailing towards the port of discharge, the port will engage in a planning process. Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) will sit with shipping agents to plan how the ships will be inspected. 

3.       Appointing a customs agent: As soon as you receive the documents as the importer you will then appoint a customs agent. The earlier you do it the better. A customs agent is commonly referred to as a clearing and forwarding agent. You will first have to do a due diligence by shopping for the most competitive customs agent. You might want to look at their tariffs.

4.     The customs agent will then proceed with the customs declaration. They will lodge a customs entry; the entry will be passed. Then there will be payment of duty. After duty has been paid and confirmed to be okay then customs (read KRA) may decide either to verify cargo or not once the cargo has arrived. Verification of cargo is for purposes of confirming whether what you have declared on the customs entry is what is physically coming into the country. This is to safeguard the component of revenue. Once customs are satisfied in all these respects. After this, they can issue a release order.

5.      When the ship arrives it is assisted by KPA pilots. Once she is berthed, she will commence cargo operations. Import cargo will be discharged from the ship and as a result of prior planning, export cargo will also be loaded onto the ship and then the ship will sail away from the port.

Declaration process

The documentation process that you had begun doing will determine the movement of the cargo out of the port. The earlier you start to do the documentation process the better. You should be able to do due diligence of monitoring the ship carrying your cargo so that when it arrives you are aware and won’t waste time.

The longer the delay to appoint a customs agent to start off the declaration process, then you will be subjecting yourself to excessive penalties. Some of these penalties include storage charges at the port, demurrage and detention to pay the shipping line because you are holding their container longer than what is required.

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