BY GERALD GEKARA- DURING the President Mwai Kibaki term, specifically between 2007-2008, Container Freight Stations (CFS) were the cash cow in Mombasa.
These bonded customs ware house minted billions of shillings…and were owned by the blue eyed boys of the then Kibaki economic team.
And they were untouchable. Selected KRA , KPA, Kenya Police and other government agents were posted to the strategic CFS’s to protect the interest of the high and mighty.
Now owners of CFS’s are staring at massive probe after CS for Transport James Macharia said most of the Mombasa based facilities were being used to conceal narcotics, instead of legitimate goods.
This comes at a time when the Government has now directed that all goods from the port of Mombasa be transported by the SGR to Mlolongo, for onward distribution.
CS James Macharia said last week that his ministry insists it will not back down on the closure of container freight stations (CFS), saying they have been used to sneak in drugs and other contraband.
Macharia told a Senate hearing last week that the CFSs had also been used by unscrupulous importers and traders to evade taxes.
He said the facilities are used to store freight containers after ships dock before importers move them either by road or rail to their destinations.
“Even if emotions run high from the leadership of the affected region, we shall not relent in the closure of these CSFs. We want transporters to continue with clean business.”
Coastal region residents, through their leaders led by Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir, had accused the CS of killing legitimate trade following a directive to move all cargo destined for Nairobi and the country’s hinterland through the standard gauge railway (SGR).
Mr Macharia said the directive that was jointly issued by the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) and the Kenya Revenue Authority in July had since been suspended pending consultations with the stakeholders in the transport sector.
Macharia told Parliament the CFS’s have no future and will eventually be closed down with increased efficiency of the SGR.
Mombasa-based container freight stations (CFS) operators plan to move part of their operations to Nairobi .But this has been hampered by lack of land in Athi River and Mlolongo.
Through their national trade lobby, the Container Freight Stations Association (CFSA), the customs-bonded storage facilities are looking for land within six-kilometers of the Nairobi Inland Container Depot (ICD).
The ICD is currently under expansion to hold 450,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) annually, up from the current 180,000 TEUs.
James Rarieya, the CFSA chairman in July 2019 said the ability of the standard gauge railway (SGR) to move 22 million tonnes of cargo annually has created vast opportunities for CFS operators to expand operations beyond Mombasa.
“Forty per cent of cargo has been reserved for SGR while the rest will be handled by CFS operators in Mombasa. We could leverage on SGR’s efficiency to transport our goods to Nairobi stations, thereby creating a new revenue source,” said Mr Rarieya.
There are concerns that some CFS associated with powerful individuals were being favored in allocation of storage space at ICD.
*Additional information from Business Daily