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Truckers want container deadline extended after attacks in S Sudan

By Benard Sanga and Peterson Githaiga | September 9th 2021

South Sudan Freight Forwarders Association, President Emmanuel Kachoul Mayen (right) and the Keya Truck drivers Union Chairman Nicholas Mbugua, confer during a press conference at Mlolongo, Machakos County. [Peterson Githaiga,Standard]

Custom agents are seeking an extension of time to return empty containers of Southern Sudan-bound cargo by 15 days so that they are not penalised for the delay.

Currently, shipping lines allow retention for 14-15 days.

The Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association (Kifwa) are citing insecurity at Elegu border between South Sudan and Uganda that has affected flow of traffic. Hauliers have pulled out their trucks from the route.

Kifwa now wants the days extended to 30, according to a letter to the industry regulator, the Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA).

Most of the trucks have dropped South Sudan-bound cargo at the Uganda side of the border because of insecurity along the Nimule-Juba highway. Last month, bandits killed two Kenyan drivers on the road.

“There are over 3,000 trucks stuck at the Elegu border and a major humanitarian crisis only comparable to a war situation or Covid-19 border crisis is unfolding,” Kifwa Chairman Roy Mwanthi wrote in letter letter dated September 2.

“Kifwa members will suffer major costs from demurrages associated with the delays in cargo delivery and return of empty containers released to them by shipping lines/agencies because of this force majeure.”

The Federation of East African Forwarders Associations (Feaffa), the umbrella body of clearing agents in East Africa, has also condemned the attacks on long-distance truck drivers ferrying cargo to South Sudan and sought extension for return of empty containers.

“The ongoing insecurity along this corridor has hampered cargo transportation, depriving multitudes of their daily livelihoods while withdrawing enormous investment in terms of trucks and cargo out of the regional economy, including South Sudan,” Feaffa said.

This situation has significant implications for the logistics sector, including increased container demurrage, short supply of containers as they remain stuck at the border and or in Juba, further escalating a situation already worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic.   

The federation appealed to the South Sudan government to make good its promise to provide security along the Juba–Nimule corridor. The federation also wants a mechanism instituted for compensating cargo owners, transporters and freight forwarders for the lives and cargo lost as well as trucks destroyed by the assailants.

The South Sudan government has promised to provide security to Kenya truck drivers stranded at the border. In a letter to the Kenya embassy, South Sudan said the escort will be provided by the Southern Sudan People’s Defense Force and the South Sudan National Police Service.

“Our government is committed to sustain this safety measures and we are advising all the road users to adhere to the government escort directives, all the obstacles that caused delay in the highway to Juba will be removed,” reads the letter.

Meanwhile, the South Sudan Freight Forwarders Association, Business Community in East Africa and the Kenya Truck Drivers Union have condemned the attacks on drivers. Forwarders association president Emmanuel Kachoul Mayen and the union chairman Nicholas Mbugua held a press conference in Mlolongo, Machakos, where they called on the government to protect the drivers.

“It’s barbaric, evil and not accepted in our culture to kill innocent drivers who are working day and night to supply essentials goods from Mombasa port to South Sudan,” said Mayen.

He urged the rebels to stop the attack on unarmed drivers only making a living.

Mayen said they suspect the rebels want to disrupt the supply chain from Mombasa to Juba and discourage the business community and South Sudan citizens using the Port of Mombasa to move their cargo either to the Port of Sudan or any other place.

“I urge the Kenya Ports Authority and the Kenya Revenue Authority to work closely with South Sudan government and the private sector to ensure the safety of the drivers. Striking or impounding trucks carrying fresh goods is a big loss to the business community,” he said.

Mbugua called for compensation for lives and property lost.

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