Mombasa County Government has proposed new levies at the Port of Mombasa in a bid to raise revenue.
The county seeks to collect levies from imported vehicles, containers, loose cargo and port health services from local and international ships calling at the port.
According to the county finance bill, authorities want to impose port levy for containers at the rate of $10 (Sh1,210) per Twenty-foot equivalent units (Teus) and levy for loose cargo at the rate of $0.5 (Sh60) per tonne.
International ships will be charged $1000 (Sh121,000) for port health services while local vessels will pay $20 (Sh2,420) if the proposed levies are maintained.
Other port-related businesses targeted are vehicle showrooms that dot Mombasa Island. The county government wants to raise the charges for a showroom of one to 10 vehicles from Sh60,000 to Sh100,000.
For vehicle showrooms with 10 vehicles and above, Governor Abdulswamad Nassir’s administration has proposed to raise charges from Sh100,000 to Sh150,000.
But the proposal to introduce a $5 (Sh600) levy for each imported car at the port has drawn protest from vehicle importers.
“It will be impossible for us to pay increased charges for a showroom and at the same time pay $5 levy for a car at the port. This is double taxation,” said Car Importers Association of Kenya (CIAK) Chairman Peter Otieno.
He proposed that a showroom of one to 10 vehicles be levied Sh30,000, a medium showroom to pay Sh45,000, a semi-large showroom Sh75,000 and large a showroom Sh100,000.
“It is to our surprise that the Container Freight Stations (CFSs) are also being levied at the same rate of Sh150,000 as showrooms. Yet CFSs accommodate thousands of vehicles annually,” Otieno asserted.
For the first time, the county finance bill was subjected to public participation in all 30 county assembly wards last week.
Nassir is upbeat that most of the business groups have understood his intention. The bill will finally be forwarded to the county assembly.
“The finance bill was for the first time subjected to public participation in all 30 wards. I have been meeting various delegations and I have shaken hands with them at the end of the meetings after they stood my intention,” Nassir explained.
But this is not the first time the county government has attempted to introduce levies at the port.
Nine years ago, former Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho announced plans to charge one dollar per tonne at the port but this was resisted by Kenya Ports Authority (KPA).
Speaking during the official opening of the Mombasa County Assembly, Mr Joho insisted that the county government must get revenue from the port.
“My county government will seek the support of the Assembly and the Senate to pass legislation that will compel the port of Mombasa to pay certain levies to the county government,” Joho had said.
Joho had argued that port levies would be used to expand the road network. But 10 years down the line, Joho could not realise his dream of levying the port.
The defunct Mombasa Municipal Council had also attempted to charge one dollar per tonne but KPA fought the plan in court.
Last week, Chairman of Old Town Residents Association Mbwana Abdalla welcomed the push by the Nassir administration to get revenue from the port.
Mr Abdalla who is also chairman of the Kenya Coast Blue Economy, a lobby group, urged the national government to hand over Mombasa Old Port to residents through the county government, and to support tourism at the coast.
“We are also asking the national government to introduce an open sky policy like in Tanzania to attract more international flights in Mombasa,” he said.
“We want the national government to build an international conference centre at the Bamburi Butterfly Pavilion to support tourism.”
Meanwhile, Nassir has written to KPA management demanding that all projects at the port get county government approval before construction starts.
He said port projects must be fully regulated by both the county government and the National Construction Authority (NCA) to ensure conformity with safety standards.
“I have written to the port management telling them that all projects must get county government approval before construction starts,” Nassir stressed.
The county government is crafting its finance bill at a time when it is grappling with a Sh4 billion debt inherited from the Joho regime as well as salary arrears.