The family of Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho has won a major contract to handle all South Sudan imports at its Nairobi Freight Terminal (NFT).
The change in policy may cause Coast-based cargo carriers and clearing agents to lose control of a market they have dominated for years.
All imports will be directly loaded and carried on the standard gauge railway (SGR) after being offloaded in Mombasa, according to the six clearing agents who have been chosen to handle commodities headed for South Sudan at Nairobi Inland Container Depot.
South Sudan, the National Revenue Authority (SSNRA) Customs Commissioner Akol Madut in a letter to Lilian Nyawanda, the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) Commissioner for Customs and Border Control confirms the authorization.
“Following the appointment of NFT as the sole firm to manage South Sudan cargo and subsequent evacuation to South Sudan, the National Revenue Authority (SSNRA) Division of Customs does hereby confirm that the following agents have been authorised to clear South Sudan cargo from NFT,” the letter indicates.
South Sudan freight has been handled by a variety of businesses, however, there have been concerns of inefficiency.
That prompted the South Sudanese government to switch agencies and most recently choose NFT as its only cargo handler.
Compact CFS, Regional Logistics, Siginon Container Freight, Awanad CFS, Mitchell Cotts, Consol Base CFS, Asgher Moulu & Fernando Marquis, and Makupa CFS are businesses that have been handling South Sudanese products.
When Panda CF and Compact Freight Station teamed up to manage 34 shipping lines docking at the port in 2013, clearing agents protested.
With the new change, more cargo will be able to be transported by SGR because it will be cleared in Nairobi before passing via the port of Mombasa on its way to South Sudan.
Madut confirmed that cargo headed for Juba would be transported by train from Mombasa to Nairobi for clearance in conversation with his South Sudan counterpart and Transport and Infrastructure Cabinet Secretary James Macharia.
In the future, it will be relocated to the Naivasha ICD to cut the truck travel time from Mombasa to the capital of South Sudan by roughly 500 kilometers.
“The decision by your government to use NFT is a clear expression of the confidence you have in our facility, which is served by the SGR. It is adequately equipped to handle containerised and conventional cargo to and from South Sudan,” Macharia said in a March 10 letter.
“We acknowledge that South Sudan is a key partner state and we support every initiative aimed at expediting economic growth and development through enhanced efficient and cost-effective movement of freight. The request by your government is welcome. We would be glad to engage further to move cargo from Nairobi to Naivasha.”
The South Sudanese business community claimed that the proposal to clear goods in Nairobi was motivated by the need to minimise transportation costs and shorten the time it takes for imports to arrive in their nation, despite protests from Mombasa-based transporters and clearing agencies.
Adau Kuol Biong, secretary general of the South Sudan International Freight and Warehousing Association, criticised those who were against the change and insisted that cargo owners would benefit most from it.