Rwanda is about to lose over 2500 containers of goods trapped at ports in Kenya and Tanzania because of failing to clear a list of accumulated bills and the deadline of 90 days ended on June 30, Taarifa reliably reports.
It is not known what exactly is loaded in these containers, but contents are valued in millions of dollars.
These containers have been languishing at the congested ports since December 2019 and their stay has since been prolonged by the #Covid-19 measures, while the bills accrued to million.
The exact figure is yet to be established, according to parties involved.
The only chance to save the containers from a regrettable public auction could be a conversation between the presidents.
In a letter written by Stephen Ruzibiza, Chief Executive Officer of Private Sector Federation, Rwandan businesses have more than 37 containers at Mombasa port, while there are more than 2,000 containers currently at port Dar-es-Salaam.
“Rwandan containers are facing demurrage costs, storage charges, warehouse rent and other penalties due to multitudes of adverse impacts of COVID-19,” Ruzibiza says in letters addressed to Tanzania and Kenya Ports.
On June 22, Ruzibiza wrote a letter to the Tanzania Port Authority (TPA) requesting for a waiver of the charges and fines imposed on the containers due to the lockdown as a result of #COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are humbled to request your institutions to give 100% waiver for customs warehouse rent, demurrage and port storage charges incurred as a result of #COVID-19 mitigation policies adopted by EAC member states,” reads part of the letter seen by Taarifa.
The February sudden attack of the East African regional bloc by #Covid-19 pandemic, member states intervened swiftly with closing their borders, airports and transport systems.
Later in April, EAC states issued extra directives, guidelines and administrative measures aimed at containing the spread of #Covid-19.
However, this action significantly slowed movement and clearance of cargo in and out of the member countries.
In some cases, movement and clearance of certain kinds of cargo were suspended causing significant cost implications to importers, exporters and logistics service providers.
Measures adopted resulted into new freight logistics challenges especially at borders and other cargo clearance points.
This has since caused a heavy stock pile of Rwandan containers at Mombasa and Dar Es Salaam ports.
Traders therefore have accumulated arrears and fines for their overstayed containers and this phenomenon will likely result in an increase in the cost of goods for the final consumer or a complete damage for some goods.
Both Kenyan and Tanzanian opportunists are preparing to savage on these containers by purchasing them cheaply at a public auction in case the Rwandan importers fail to clear an assortment of bills.
The Rwanda Private Sector Federation was prompted to initiate discussions with port authorities and container freight stations.
The organization requested for an extension of transit duration of the fuel products from 30 days to 90 days.
The federation also requested for waiving the customs warehousing rent and any other penalties incurred by the business community.
Among these discussions, there was a request to extend the free storage period, warehouse operations to waiver all demurrages charges, shipping lines to extend the container return period allowing freight forwarders from land locked countries at least up to the end of June 2020 to return the containers.
However, the deadline arrived yesterday yet the Rwandan business community has not secured the containers, providing the good ground for invoking public auction procedures.
A container may be sold off at only U$5000 irrespective of what is contained inside.
The Chairman of the Rwanda chamber of Commerce told Taarifa that all possible avenues have been tried, including engaging Ambassadors of the respective countries, but the efforts have yielded no positive results.
Meanwhile, in solidarity with the Rwandan counterparts, the Federation of East African Freight Forwarders Associations has written to respective National #COVID-19 Taskforces seeking government’s intervention.
Their efforts have also fallen on deaf ears.