(With Agency Report)
Shippers who patronise the port of Mombasa in Kenya are crying blue murder over what they termed as prohibitive cost of doing business in the eastern African port.
Consequently they have called for an enquiry into what they describe as ‘mysterious costs’ that are imposed seemingly at random by Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) on cargo moving through the strategic port.
The Kenya Maritime Authority KMA) is also demanding clarity regarding the charges levied on cargo by individual port agents acting on behalf of shipping companies.
Until now details of these costs have remained confidential but shippers say they want transparency on how amounts on the bills are arrived at.
According to the country’s apex maritime industry agency, despite passing the Merchant Shipping Act, which was intended to regularise the situation, agents appear to be taking a laissez faire attitude when import cargoes are involved.
There are about 20 different port and cargo which consignees must pay before bringing out their imports from the ports. These include about$65 ‘Bill of Lading release fee’, which is valid for seven days, after which another is required, $60 ‘B/L collection fee’, handling charges which are collected twice for each container, once by the KPA, then, by the ships agents, $25 for passing on documents, $20 container cleaning on empty boxes, and so on.
One of the areas which will continue to be a stumbling block is the container deposit levy which can be as much as $5,000 for each container leaving the port. The charge has some justification in that Mombasa has a history of containers which pass through without being returned; estimates put the figure as high as 500 units per annum. The complaint is however that restitution of the fees by the liner agents is often subject to unreasonable and extreme delays.
Liner agents maintain the inflated costs are merely being passed on by shipping companies who have lost revenue because of depressed freight rates; clients say they want to see the evidence. Bidders for the port services may be well advised to study the solutions to these problems before committing themselves, indeed ship owners may actually be banned from having an interest in the port management due to a monopoly clause in Kenya’s marine law.