Kenya – Drugs Found on Auto Carrier in Port of Mombasa

hoeghKenyan and U.S. authorities found drugs aboard the Höegh Autoliners “Pure Car/Truck Carrier” (PCTC), which was detained at Port Mombasa on September 17. The crew of the ship has been arrested and currently being questioned by authorities.

According to authorities, cocaine was found inside the tires of three military trucks aboard the Hoegh Transporter, a Singapore-flagged car carrier.

Kenyan officials raided the vessel after receiving a tip from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that the vessel had been loaded with the coke at India’s Port of Mumbai.

Kenyan soldiers and security personnel shut down the port for hours before seizing the ship and halting operations. Mombasa, which is Africa’s largest port, serves as the main gateway for imports and exports in the region.

East Africa is a major shipping route for Afghan narcotics bound for Europe. Maritime forces have been unable to curb the flow of drug transport in the region.

The Höegh Transporter was built in 1999 and was transporting nearly 4,000 vehicles, including about 250, which are to be used for peacekeeping missions in South Sudan. Source: Maritime Executive

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Kenya Blows Up Heroin Ship

BwNodecCIAAquJ4Kenya Defense Forces have destroyed a ship laden with heroin worth $11.3 million off the coast of Mombasa. The act is a message that the Port of Mombasa will no longer be a passage for the importation of illicit drugs, says the Head of State.

A reported 370 kilograms of heroin were blown up together with the stateless Al Noor ship on Friday in an operation witnessed by President Uhuru Kenyatta from a military helicopter overflying the Indian Ocean.

The vessel was mounted with explosives which were detonated some 16 nautical miles south of the coastal town of Mombasa, where it then sunk to the seabed.

A Mombasa High Court judge had earlier issued an order stopping the destruction of ship. A local lawyer had made a submission to stop the ship’s obliteration on behalf of his client, who was not named in court. However, presidential orders seemed to trump the court order.

Additionally, nine foreigners have been charged with trafficking the heroin at the Mombasa High Court. The drugs were seized from the 1,800 liters of the ship’s diesel reservoir on July 15 where they were concealed when it was intercepted off the Kenyan coast in Lamu by Kenya navy officers. Source: The Star (Kenya)

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Outlook and reliability of African ports in question

Port of Mombasa

Port of Mombasa

The reliability of African ports for import and export traffic is likely to deteriorate before getting better, according to Portoverview.com which advises importers, exporters and traders in planning their supply chain to and from the continent.

Speaking earlier this week at the Cool Logistics Conference in Cape Town, Africa. Portoverview.com’s Victor Shieh said almost 2,000 incidents were recorded on its portal over the last 16 months, with an average of one weather-related incident per day for South Africa alone.

Current congestion issues will remain a problem whilst port infrastructure is renewed over the next years. However, we see African hinterland connections beyond the terminal gates as the biggest challenge facing shippers,” Shieh emphasised.

In a study presented at the conference, road and rail construction as well as investment in port infrastructure were identified as the main positive developments recorded on the portal.

Greenfield sites along the African coast are cited as having the greatest potential to improve cargo efficiency. Projects such as the 2.5 million teu site at Lekki in Nigeria and the 5 million teu expansion at Tangier-Med, in Morocco, will require similar investments on the intermodal leg to succeed.

Recent research by SeaIntel Maritime Analysis, which is co-owner of the portal, revealed that African exporters have no more than an average 60% chance that their containers will arrive on time in Asia with the percentage falling to 55% for Europe.

“For shippers – especially ones who produce and distribute perishable products – that’s a real challenge” commented Morten Berg Thomsen, a shipping analyst at SeaIntel.

Helen Palmer, director, Sutcliffe’s Maritime, a UK-based shipping agent told Lloyd’s Loading List.com that as far as ro-ro traffic was concerned she was not aware of any serious congestion and delays into African ports

“I can’t speak for box traffic but in the case of ro-ro into ports such as Mombasa, in East Africa, transit is extremely smooth with trucks waiting on the quayside as soon as the ship’s ramp comes down. Dar es Salaam, is perhaps a little less straightforward but certainly nothing major,” she said. Source: Lloydsloaddinglist.com

East African Single Customs Territory Will Cut Delays

East%20Africa%20mapIn the spirit of stronger East African integration, the revenue authorities of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda have started preparations for the implementation of a Single Customs Territory. The Commissioners’ General of the three East African countries deliberated on the mechanisms to operationalize the decisions of the heads of state who have continuously called for its fast tracking.

On June 25, 2013 at the Entebbe State House in Uganda, a Tripartite Summit involving the three heads of state issued a joint communiqué directing among other things the collection of customs duties by Uganda and Rwanda before goods are released from Mombasa. The leaders also agreed that traders with goods destined for warehousing should continue executing the general bond security.

During the meeting, the Commissioners’ General of the three countries put in place joint technical committees on ICT, Business Process, enforcement, change management, legal and human resource to discuss the implementation road map.

In a statement signed by the three Commissioners’ General, they said that the development of a Single Customs Territory will positively impact on the trading activities of the three countries as it will ensure that assessment and collection of taxes is done at the country of destination before cargo moves out of the port.

“As a result, the East African Community Customs Union will join the ranks of other Customs Union such as South African Customs Union and the European Union among others. Under this arrangement, restrictive regulations are eliminated as the corridor is now considered for customs purposes. For clarity, circulation of goods will happen with no or minimal border controls,” reads the statement in part.

Kenya said it would cut red tape holding up millions of dollars of imports into its landlocked neighbours Rwanda and Uganda, by letting the countries collect customs on goods as they arrive in its port at Mombasa. Goods can currently face long delays as agents process the paperwork to release cargoes from warehouses at east Africa’s biggest port, and later make separate arrangements to pay import duties at Kenya’s borders with Uganda and Rwanda.

Officials said the new system, due to be introduced in August, would clear inefficiencies and blockages seen as a major barrier to trade in the region. But clearing agents in Kenya said it could also cost thousands of jobs in warehouses, freight firms and almost 700 clearing and forwarding companies operating in the country.

Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, together with Burundi and Tanzania, are members of the regional East African Community trade bloc, with a joint gross domestic product of $85 billion.

Kenyan tax officials said the new system would allow a “seamless flow of goods” and make it easier to stop goods getting through the system without customs payments. “Once cleared at the port, there will be no stoppages at borders and checkpoints along the corridor,” the Kenya Revenue Authority’s commissioner of customs, Beatrice Memo, told a news conference.

Under the system, Rwandan and Ugandan clearing agents and customs officials would be able to set up their own offices to clear cargo and collect taxes directly at the port. The Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association said that meant up to half a million jobs could be lost to Uganda and Rwanda. “The Government has not consulted us … and we totally reject it,” said  Association chairman Boaz Makomere. Sources: East African Business Week (Kenya) & The New Vision (Uganda).

Clearing Agents Cautious About EAC Single Customs Territory

The following article featured in The New Times (Rwanda) provides a snap shot of developments towards a future “Customs Union” in East Africa. While valid concerns are being expressed by traders, how close are the respective Customs administrations in terms of common standards (tariff, regimes, etc), and the application of common external border procedures? The rest of Africa should follow this process closely. Unlike the EU, where it is incumbent of prospective Customs Union members to first attain and implement minimum customs standards prior to accession, here you have a pot-pourri of member states who apply national measures aspiring to an ultimate regional standard. Who determines this standard? Who is going to maintain ‘watch’ over the common implementation of such standards? Forgive the long article – this is a very significant development for the African continent.

0c8d8_logo_of_east_african_community_eac_-63ae9With the East Africa Community integration process gaining pace rapidly, clearing and forwarding agents have been advised to set up shop at entry ports under the proposed single customs territory.

Angelo Musinguzi, the KPMG tax manager, who is representing traders on the team of experts negotiating the establishment of the single customs territory, challenged the agents to look at the opportunities that the policy brings instead of focusing on how it will harm their businesses. “You need to look at this as an opportunity for business expansion because this policy will remove trade tariff barriers, duplication of time-consuming and costly processes and corruption. This will improve efficiency and reduce the cost of doing business,” he said.

The advice follows a deal reached by Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda where top customs officials from landlocked Rwanda and Uganda will be stationed at Mombasa port to ensure quick clearing of goods and curb dumping of cheap products in the region. Under the deal, Kenya will create space for its partners to set up customs clearing units.

Rwanda was given the task of establishing the single customs territory at the recently-concluded meeting between Presidents Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni held in Entebbe, Uganda. However, local clearing and forwarding agents as well as traders are skeptical about the deal and want the process delayed until Rwandan businesses are supported to become more competitive.

“There are issues we still have to examine critically before the policy is implemented. For example, who will collect revenue and how will it be collected? How will Rwanda share the revenue? Will we have a common legal framework? Will we share Kenya’s or Tanzania’s infrastructure?

Fred Seka, the Association of Freight Forwarders and Clearing Agents of Rwanda president, noted that the move could affect them negatively if it is not studied carefully. “We have already raised the matter with the Minister of Trade. Besides hurting small firms, the country will lose jobs when companies relocate to Mombasa or Dar es Salaam. That is a big concern for us,” Seka said.

He noted that some of the partner states have many trade laws that might affect their operations. “It would be better if a locally-licensed company is not subjected to any other conditions once it relocates to Mombasa,” Seka noted.

Mark Priestley, the TradeMark East Africa country director, said the research firm and other players were currently conducting studies on how the single customs territory can operate without harming any player. “The intention is not only to ensure that we get rid of barriers which have been hampering trade, but also reduce the cost of doing business within the region,” he said. He added, however, that it was too early for traders to be scared of the consequences of operating under the single customs territory.

Last year the Permanent Secretary in the EAC Ministry, stated that the model which will involve shifting customs operations from Rwanda to the ports of Mombasa, and Dar es Salaam, will lead to unemployment, revenue loss and adverse multiplier effects. According to the model, certificates of origin of goods would be scrapped, which, according to Kayonga, would lead to the suffocation of local industries as well as making the region a dumping ground for unnecessary products.

Scovia Mutabingwa, the Aim Logistics East Africa managing director, said there was need for more consultations on the operation of the single customs territory “to understand how it will work”. “We need to know where our bargaining power is in the region?” Mutabingwa said. She noted that there was a need to first harmonise other trade policies if the single customs territory is to benefit all businesses in the region. She pointed out that she had applied for a clearing and forwarding licence in Tanzania over one and half years ago, but she was yet to get it. “How shall we work in such countries?” she wondered.

Another clearing firm, urged those negotiating the deal to ensure uniformity in tax policies across the region. “In Rwanda, there is 100 per cent tax compliancy, but we know this is not the same in other countries. How will we compete favourably if such issues are not addressed?” she wondered.

While one needs at least $300,000 to open a business in Kenya or they have to give a stake in their company to a resident, non-Kenyan companies also pay higher taxes at 35 per cent corporate tax compared to 30 per cent for locals.

Tanzania still has over 63 trade laws, and to operate a clearing firm there you need to be a Tanzanian, according to Musinguzi.

The East African Community (EAC) Customs Union Protocol came into effect in July 2009 after it was ratified by Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda in 2004 and later by Rwanda and Burundi in 2008. The creation of the EAC customs union was the first stage of the four step EAC regional integration process.

When fully implemented, the customs union will consolidate the East Africa Community into a single trading bloc with uniform policies, resulting in a larger economy. By working together to actualise the customs union, partner states will deepen EAC co-operation, allowing their citizens to reap the benefits of accelerated economic growth and social development.

However, the customs union is not yet fully implemented because there is a significant level of exclusions to the common external tariff and tariff-free movement of goods and services.

Uganda says it’s time to talk in Africa

Africa-mombasa-mct-aerial

Port of Mombasa (Credit – Port Strategy)

Not for the first time a landlocked country in Africa is attempting to have a say in a remote port operation which functions as a major gateway for its import and export trade. This time it is Uganda proposing that it has a say in the management of Kenya’s major port, the port of Mombasa. In the recent past it was Ethiopia attempting to secure a dedicated terminal in Djibouti.

The Ugandan initiative surfaced at a recent ‘Validation Workshop on Uganda’s Position on the Single Customs Territory for the East African Community. The Permanent Secretary Ministry of EAC Affairs, Edith Mwanje said that Uganda should have a say in the management of gateway ports because of “the many delays that negatively impacted trade”. Ugandan cargo accounts for the largest body of traffic handled by the port of Mombasa for the landlocked countries surrounding Kenya.

It is unlikely, of course, that any country will give up even partial control of a national asset to another country. It is akin to relinquishing sovereignty in the minds of countries owning port assets and being asked to participate in some form of power sharing. Djibouti fought hard to prevent Ethiopian Shipping Lines gaining control of dedicated terminal assets in the old port of Djibouti and won this battle. It is very unlikely that Kenya will even consider the idea of a foreign power participating in the management of its number one port.

It may, however, be a wise course of action for countries such as Djibouti and Kenya to consider establishing some sort of regular stakeholder dialogue. This is the path to a long and sustainable relationship as opposed to a short opportunistic one.

It is known, for example, that in the past Ethiopia has been frustrated by the high price of gateway container and general cargo operations in Djibouti and this has led to tensions. Since these days, however, Djibouti has put considerable effort into having a sensible dialogue with Ethiopia and this has matured into new projects such as the signing of an agreement with Ethiopia and Djibouti to build an oil pipeline that will reduce South Sudan’s dependence on crude shipments via neighbouring Sudan, and plans for a $2.6bn liquefied natural gas terminal in Djibouti, including a liquefaction plant and a pipeline, that will enable the export of 10m cubic meters of gas from Ethiopia to China annually from 2016.

Source and Picture credit: Portstrategy.com

Ugandan importers to boycott Mombasa

Ugandan importers say they intend avoiding using the Port of Mombasa in Kenya in favour of Tanzania’ Dar es Salaam in future, because of unresolved issues with the Kenyan taxman.

Some 600 containers destined for Uganda are being held at the Kenyan port following the introduction of a cash bond tax. The chairman of the Kampala Traders Association announced last week that the association had resolved to suspend using Mombasa in the interim, reports New Vision (Kampala).

In addition, importers say they will take legal action against the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) which has issued a directive instructing importers to lodge either a cash bond equivalent to the value of the imported goods or a bank guarantee to the same value. This must be deposited before the goods being imported can be cleared.

The directive has affected not only the 600 containers waiting at the port but imports of motor vehicles and sugar.

Uganda’s trade minister, Amelia Kyambadde said she had been informed by the Uganda business community that the KRA, under notice CUS/L&A/LEG/1 had made a unilateral decision on a requirement for a cash bond or bank guarantee on transit sugar and motor vehicles above 2000cc.

Ugandan authorities say the action by the KRA directive constitutes another non-tariff barrier imposed by Kenyan authorities on its transit cargo and contravenes East African Community Customs Union protocol and decisions reached by the Council of Ministers in March 2012 on removal of non-trade barriers in the community.

“If Kenya needs an instrument to regulate regional trade in sugar and other products, a cash bond is not the instrument to apply,” said Kyambadde. Sources: Ports.co.za / New Vision (Uganda).

Kenyan importers to be penalised for delays

Nothing like giving stakeholders fair warning of impending fines. Given that the authorities appear to have agreed on ‘all details’ except the cost, lets hope the latter aspect does not come as a nasty surprise when the single window system becomes operational. One would think that price/cost would be one of the first criteria for consideration and approval, not the last.

The government plans to impose penalties on importers who fail or delay to lift their cargo from the port in Mombasa in the ongoing reforms to de-congest the port. Transport minister Amos Kimunya said this is part of the measures being drafted to ensure the port operations are not slowed down by deliberate delays by importers.

“This will encourage people to quickly remove their cargo from the port as soon as it cleared by the authorities” Kimunya told the KPA annual summit in Nairobi on Wednesday. He said this is aimed at reducing the 40 per cent extra cost to consumers, caused by inefficient flow of goods from ports of entry.

The penalties come ahead of the single window system which is expected to facilitate fast and easy flow of export and exports through a seamlessly interconnected platform. According to the chairman of Kenya Trade Network Agency Joseph Kibwana, the single window implementing agency, all the details of the project have been agreed on, except the cost.

Implementation of the first phase for sea and air manifest will start in June 2013 to be followed by the second and third phases in six months intervals. Source: The Star (Nairobi)

Car importers slam KRA transit vehicles rule

Is the time for a regional transit bond nigh? Given prevailing draconian measures to ensure security and surety, the message is clear that customs brokers, freight forwarders or clearing agents need to demonstrate financial security over and beyond what they are accustomed to. Question – is the transit business lucrative for agents? Why not refuse the business – its just not worth the risk.

A requirement by the Kenya Revenue Authority demanding that all imported transit vehicles above 2000cc be cleared against cash bonds or bank guarantees has been opposed by clearing agents in Mombasa. The agents, under their umbrella Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association, have threatened not to pay taxes if the regulations are not withdrawn by the tax collector. The agents said that the stringent measures by KRA may stifle trade in the region and may also see the port of Mombasa losing some foreign importers to the port of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. “We as clearing agents cannot pay the bonds for the importers”.

On August 31, KRA directed all clearing agents that with effect from September 1, all transit vehicles exceeding 2000cc would be cleared against a cash bond or bank guarantees paid by the agents. The forwarders also said that Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo business class was considering ditching Kenya as an import avenue for Dar es Salaam port. Source: The Star (Nairobi)

The African transhipment race

Have you noticed the debate in the on-line Global Ports Forum about who will become the main container terminals in East and West Africa? Portstrategy.com has taken it upon themselves to score some of the suggestions.

Nigeria is strongly identified as a hub for the west coast of Africa – we score that 7 out of 10. It has the potential but will new port development be delivered in time? Will the off-take infrastructure development be implemented in concert with port development at places like Lekki? Will Lekki’s hub function be undermined by other deepwater facilities being delivered first on the African coast?

Generally, they agree with the view expressed by one wise head in the Forum that the race for hub status on the West African coast is now a fierce one. However, we don’t agree with the contention that Angola will have a serious say in becoming a major hub for West Africa. It will struggle for some time yet to meet its own port capacity needs let alone fulfil a regional function. We score this suggestion 2 out of 10; go to the bottom of the class!

South Africa as a hub for East and West Africa? Well to a limited extent it does already fulfil this role but when South Africa booms its priority has to be gateway cargo and it is limited in terms of its economic and geographical reach. It is also not ideal because of position; we won’t score the suggestion down but conversely we also won’t score it up because it is a fair point. We do, however, see as a negative the continuing emphasis on the public operation of this country’s ports – it spells very high cost comparatively speaking and coupled with this, ironically, not the best service.

Doraleh Container Terminal, Djibouti? Yes we would agree that this has a role to play in container transhipment for East Africa and particularly with its phase two expansion now underway. The price is right for transhipment here but the cost of cargo movement to the main transit destination of Ethiopia is coming in for increasing criticism. It also has a limited reach along the East Coast. Another score of 7.

Mombasa? Yes huge potential for the East Coast of Africa but as history shows no political will to deliver new port capacity in line with demand. Nine in theory but five in practice.

The new port of Lamu? Designed to act as an export gateway for South Sudan, construction has begun on the $23bn (£14.5bn) port project and oil refinery in south-east Kenya’s coastal Lamu region near war-torn Somalia’s border. With a planned multi-purpose port function, because it is a ‘clean slate’ it could take on the hub function. Another 7.

So what is Port Strategy’s view?

In West Africa, we note that new purpose-built, deep draft container port capacity has either recently been installed or is about to be installed in West Africa in six or seven locations. In Lome in Togo and Pointe Noire in the Congo, for example, new facilities are set to come on-stream by end 2014 at the latest which will be able to handle vessels of up to 7,000 teu. We therefore suggest that there will be a split of hubbing activity between all these locations but with the first two or three terminals on-line grabbing the main part of transhipment activity. We also see a continuing role in the short-term at least for hubs such as Algeciras that ‘face’ Africa.

In East Africa we cannot escape the logic of Mombasa and Dar es Salaam but will they pick up the pace quick enough to seize the opportunity? Sadly, not so far. Lamu, therefore, may have a big role to play. Source: Portstrategy.com