By Luke Anami
Shipping lines are responsible for the current congestion at the Port of Mombasa, private sector members of the East African Business Council said.
Shipping lines that double up as Ship owners, carriers, clearing agents, and transporters at the same time are to blame for the current port congestion and not infrastructure needs as suggested by Kenyan government officials.
"An explanation given to President Kibaki, also chairperson of the East African Community, by technocrats at the Ministry of Transport on the cause of congestion is misleading," Kassim Omar, First Vice President of Uganda National Chamber of Commerce & Industry and a member of EABC, said.
"Congestion at the port is caused by shipping lines that want to double up as transporters even when they have is no means to do so," he said.
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The port of Mombasa has been choking under congestion since Christmas period last year. Transit goods imported over the same period are still held at the port awaiting clearance.
Transport PS Cyrus Njiru had earlier blamed the congestion on poor movement of traffic in the port areas and the Christmas holiday.
In a raft of measures meant to ease congestion at the port under the Rapid Results Initiative last month, Dr Njiru ordered cargo storage operators to clear the port in 48 hours.
But while speaking during an EAC stakeholder’s forum to eliminate Non-Tariff Barriers organised by Trade Mark East Africa, attended by both Trade Minister Chirau Ali Mwakwere and EAC Secretary General Dr Richard Sezibera, Kassim disagreed with Njiru’s explanation.
"The same shipping lines are using the port as part of a storage facility. This implies they don’t pay any container fees," Kassim, also the national chairman of Uganda Clearing Industry and forwarding Association, said.
Congestion at the port is so serious that three major shipping lines are reported to have withdrawn their vessels from the Mombasa entry point.