Kenya Railways to Streamline handling of empty containers

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The Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) freight service will engage a private firm to streamline the transportation of empty containers from the Inland Container Depot in Embakasi, Nairobi to Mombasa.

The cost of transporting empty containers back to designated shipping lines yards in Mombasa has been watering down gains for importers using the SGR subsidized freight rates. Kenya Railways, which is in the final stages of inking a deal with the service provider, says the private firm will take care of interchange issues and deliver the empty containers to depots or delivery points in Mombasa.

“As we talk now there are more than 400 empty containers in Mombasa waiting to be evacuated. That is why we want this service provider to provide a complete total solution to the delivery of empties,” KR business commercial and operations team leader James Siele said Friday.

To ferry empty containers back to Mombasa by road, transporters charge between Sh35,000 and Sh50,000 with delayed delivery of the equipment attracting demurrage charges after a few days, according to an agent based in Nairobi.

Mr. Siele reckons bringing on another player will solve the problems of delays, survey, and checking of empty containers. “The advantages of using a service provider will ensure the containers are properly checked before they are transported to the Kenya Ports Authority and received at the railway’s side. It will also enhance efficiency in terms of giving a total solution from the time a container is loaded to the time it is delivered that will be the work of a service provider.”

This comes after Industry players started embracing the Through Bill of Lading (TBL) freight model to import goods into the country, which is expected to increase cargo being transported via the Standard Gauge Railway trains.

Early this month, Maersk Line delivered a freight train loaded with 108 TBL containers to the Nairobi Inland Container Depot (ICD) in a move expected to further resolve the issue of returning empty containers. For goods to be delivered to a destination, the importer has to state the port they want their cargo offloaded. In the TBL, the point of destination is the ICD and not Mombasa port as is the practice currently with the merchant haulage model.

The TBL model will ease the burden of repatriating empty containers which are required to be returned to designated yards in Mombasa.

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Melissa Daniels
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