More than 3,600 Uganda-bound containers stranded at Mombasa port could be auctioned if owners do not clear them soon, a notice issued by Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) has shown.
In the notice, Mr Richard Kamajugo, the commissioner Customs Department, stated that records from the Kenya Ports Authority, as at January 5, 2015, showed that 3,698 Uganda-bound containers were stuck at the port.
“Further delays in clearance will lead to accumulation of storage and customs warehouse rent charges,” said Mr Kamajugo. “Prolonged stay may lead to the goods being deemed to have been abandoned and be disposed of through auction to create space for incoming cargo.”
The notice indicates that 3,161 containers have stayed for 30 days, 251 for 60 days, 46 for 90 days while 240 have stayed for more than 90 days. The figures include both 20-foot and 40-foot containers.
The notice comes after last month’s decision by the East African heads of state to waive all charges on cargo that had overstayed at the port. The cargo was granted full waiver of customs warehouse rent and port demurrage charges. Owners of containers from Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda that had overstayed at the port were given 60 days to collect them without paying the due fines. The decision was taken during the 8th Northern Corridor Integration Projects held in Nairobi. The waiver envisages clearing the cargo backlog at the port.
Mr Everest Kayondo, the Chairman Kampala City Traders Association said efforts are being undertaken by Ugandan importers to heed the notice.
“The notice is to remind the importers to speed up clearance of their containers before the deadline for the waiver elapses,” said Mr Kayondo.
He added: “So far, there has been commendable progress.”
Last year, URA issued several notices in the media urging traders to clear their cargo at the port. Mr Kamajugo, told this newspaper then that traders ought to plan ahead before importing.
Uganda tops list of Mombasa cargo destinations in the region
According to a report released by Kenya Ports Authority last year, Uganda maintained its position among East African Community member countries as the largest destination of transit cargo from the port. The report indicated that Uganda bound cargo had increased by 9.1 per cent from 4.9 million tonnes to 4.1 tonnes in 2013.
Mombasa port is a vital entry point into the East African region. Over the years, numerous reports have been written about how congestion at the port is slowing down trade in the region. Last year, The Citizen newspaper reported that Kenya Ports Authority was facing a congestion crisis and had thus issued a notice to shipping lines and agents to limit empty export containers to 500 units per vessel.
Factors for delay
In an interview with this paper last year, Mr John William Lusabya, the representative of the Ugandan business community in Mombasa, blamed the delays in cargo clearance on ignorance. He said; “Majority of traders use brokers, who lack expertise in clearing. Instead of guiding them to pay clearing money before the ship docks, they advise them to do it after,” he said.