Rwanda private sector federation has decried reasons behind Kenya and Tanzania’s intention to slap a heavy fine on Rwanda-bound containers which are currently lying at the Mombasa and Dar-es-Salaam port as a result of coronavirus restrictions.
Letters seen by KTPress shows that several containers inclusive of those under custom warehouse rent (in Mombasa Dar-es-Salaam) have been held up on grounds that Rwanda business community delayed to clear the cargo on time, thus demanding charges on the delays
For instance in a letter date June 22, 2020 addressed to Tanzania Port Authority (TPA), Rwanda has requested both authorities to consider waiver on storage charges and other penalties incurred as result of the covid-19 pandemic mitigation measures.
Currently Rwandan businesses have more than 2000 containers (with 60 at TPA, and 2,228 at Tanzania International Container Terminal Services) located at Dar es-Salaam port, all facing demurrage costs, storage charges, warehouse rent and other penalties due to adverse impacts of COVID-19.
Shockingly, the move contradicts a comprehensive regional covid-19 approach that was agreed on in dealing with the challenges of the virus on the cross-border businesses between member states.
For example, a Joint EAC Covid-19 taskforce recommendation 6, published May 1, 2020 (on EAC LOGISTICS INDUSTRY) asked governments to take a leading role in engaging key logistics service providers such as ports, shipping lines and warehouses to cushion freight forwarders and the shippers against the negative effects of COVID-19.
The same taskforce asked a continued dialogue with the Partner States on freight logistics related proposals for management of COVID-19 and any other necessary post COVID-19 interventions to avoid recurrence of the current challenges in future.
A Rwanda PSF report also shows that 64 Rwanda containers inclusive of those under custom warehouse rent (in Mombasa Kenya,) also face the same fate.
Rwandan importers were told that they will have to clear these charges if they are to get their cargo and merchandise bound for Kigali, Rwanda.
These fears in themselves contradict the agreement that was reached by all member states, through Federation of East African Freight Forwarders Associations (FEAFFA) to remove normal charges levied on cargo handling.
For instance, on April 27 FEAFFA recommended Kenya and Tanzania Ports Authorities and all container freight stations to increase the free storage period, warehouse operators to waiver all demurrages charges and revenue authorities to waiver the customs warehouse rent.
The same letter signed by FEAFFA chairperson Fred Rumbuguza Seka, asked shipping lines to increase the container return period and allow freight forwarders from Landlocked countries at least up to June 2020 to return the containers.
Rwanda PSF said that its importers are still grappling with issues that are out of their control mainly due to COVID19 Pandemic; Tanzania Port Authority.
A statement signed by Stephen Ruzibiza CEO of PSF Rwanda said importers :risk heavy bank fines since the consignment currently at the ports where all purchased using bank facilitation which has also affected Banks and other businesses in Rwanda since they are all depending on revenues tied up in the containers,”
PSF Rwanda also stated that they are expecting the current situation “to normalize by mid-July so that the importers can make new orders hence requesting Tanzania to facilitate release of all affected containers that arrived during December 2019- May 2020 period and also provide a 120 days window for evacuation of the same.”
“It is in that respect that 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,” Ruzibiza said.