Transporting goods by standard gauge railway trains might not be cheaper after all, clearing and forwarding agents have said.
On May 31, President Uhuru Kenyatta flagged off a cargo train at the Mombasa port second container terminal ahead of the launch of freight services in December. According to Kenya Railways managing director Atanas Maina, it will cost Sh50,000 to ferry a 20-foot container from the Mombasa port to Inland Container Depot Nairobi.
But on Thursday, agents said cargo owners will spend between Sh15,000 and Sh20,000 on the last-mile transport to industries within Nairobi depending on the distance from the ICD, meaning the cumulative cost could hit or pass the Sh70,000 charged by transporters.
Truckers charge between Sh60,000 and Sh80,000 to ferry the same size of container from the port to Nairobi, depending on the weight and type of cargo.
“We have been paying the same rate to transport a container via Rift Valley Railways and, if you look at other costs before goods are delivered at your door step, it might necessarily not be cheaper,” said Mr William Ojonyo, Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association chairman-elect.
He spoke during a forum bringing together about 100 directors and managers of clearing and forwarding agents to sensitise them on the impact of the SGR on their businesses at Royal Court Hotel in Mombasa.
“We are not opposed to the SGR but what Kenya Railways should be telling us is how efficient it will be to transport cargo by trains because the problem we experienced with RVR was not only the speed of delivery but how cargo was being loaded onto wagons,” he said.
Mr Ojonyo said that once cargo is offloaded at the port, the liability shifts to the transporter by way of nomination to the next carrier, an issue that has not been addressed.
“If the importer does not nominate his container to a container freight station, Kenya Ports Authority does it. But, as stakeholders, we would like to be told clearly how the process will work so that we can advise our clients. This has not happened,” he said.
Kenya Raiways will run freight trains with 54 double-stack flat wagons, carrying 216 twenty foot equivalent units per trip with a load of 4,000 tonnes on each train.
Agents who spoke at the forum asked how empty containers will be returned to the ICD.