A row has erupted between clearing agents and Container Freight Stations (CFS) over the re-introduction of verification charges that were scrapped three years ago.
Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association (Kifwa) has protested the charges which came into effect on December 1 last year.
Verification, inspection, scanning and stuffing of the containers at owner’s request is charged $80 (Sh6,400) and $120 (9,600) for 20- and 40-foot containers respectively. However, verification or scanning by customs officials during normal clearance procedure is free of charge.
“The CFS operators have continued to force clearing agents and importers to pay the charges before release of cargo,” Kifwa chairman Boaz Makomere says in a letter to then Transport permanent secretary Cyrus Njiru, who swapped places with Kibicho Karanja who was at Industrialisation ministry.
Mr Makomere threatened the agents would move to court to compel KPA to stop sending containers to the freight stations and to seek orders prohibiting the charges.
“We have lost faith in KPA’s management in resolving the issue. Soon we will move to court,” Mr Makomere said.
The CFS Association of Kenya chief executive officer Daniel Nzeki denied in a recent interview that the stations were levying fees outside the tariff. “Our members have stuck to the tariff and there are no charges that are unjustified,” he said.
Extra charges are borne by the importer who passes the expenses to the consumer, making commodities more expensive. Such a charge for cargo going through Mombasa port makes clearance of goods exorbitant, rendering the port uncompetitive.
In a notice dated December 18, Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) general manager for operations Khamis Twalib warned CFS operators against imposing charges outside the tariff.
“KPA will take appropriate punitive measure on any CFS operator found levying wrongful or illegal charges outside the tariff,” Mr Twalib said.
This is not the first time CFS operators are re-introducing verification charges. In January 2011 operators charged $75 (Sh6,000) and $110 (Sh8,800) for 20ft and 40ft containers respectively.
However, KPA offered operators a shore handling rebate to end a row linked to procedural charges. Operators were given $4 (Sh320) per 20-foot container and $6 (Sh480) per 40ft container before dropping the charge.
KPA dropped payments for scanning, verification, inspection and stuffing of containers in October 2009 to make Mombasa port competitive.
Mr Makomere said yesterday that Kifwa would demand that KPA allow agents to clear from the main port if matter was not resolved.
“We have seen an increased number of containers targeted for 100 per cent verification, an activity that is labour-intensive. The costs for such operations are expected to be paid from the revenue generated through storage and re-marshalling,” a CFS operator who did not want to be named said.
Source: Business Daily