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Car imports pile up at port for lack of number plates

Second hand cars being offloaded from a Cargo Ship at the Port of Mombasa.

Imported vehicles continue to pile up, causing congestion in Mombasa depots due to number plates shortage.

The units which are now adding up to more than 1,000 have caused huge losses to car importers who are being forced to pay storage charges as the Kenya Revenue Authority maintains only duly registered cars with number plates will be released from port facilities.

Most vehicles imported since early July have not been released due to failure by the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) to supply number plates for imported vehicles.

With at least three ships scheduled to dock at the Port of Mombasa in the next few days, the situation might worsen if the problem is not resolved with traders accusing NTSA of being reluctant in resolving the matter.

The Kenya International Freight Warehousing Association chairperson Roy Mwanthi said they are incurring huge losses despite paying all port charges.

“There is congestion in different car depots in Mombasa despite clearing with KRA but the vehicles cannot be released without number plates. This has resulted in increasing cost to importers as they are incurring demurrages every day,” said Mr Mwanthi.

“A number of importers are stranded and with more vehicles being imported at the moment, this will result in huge loss to dealers and individual importers.”

Car Importers Association of Kenya (CIAK) Chairman Peter Otieno said apart from inadequate plates, there has been a system failure as the KRA platform is not reflected.

“Most of the vehicles imported since July which tally close to 7,000 have not been released. The problem started about a month ago and with more vehicles being imported this time. We are having a serious issue. We are also having issues where a car is cleared by NTSA but at the KRA system, it is not reflecting it,” said Mr Otieno.

He noted that apart from plates, the importers are having challenges in getting stickers and they have to wait for about a week to get one.

In a letter seen by Shipping and Logistics from NTSA Director General George Njao dated August 6, 2021 to KRA Commissioner General Githii Mburu, the agency acknowledged the shortage which it has attributed to its supplier.

“NTSA is currently experiencing delays in production and supply of number plates and logbooks from our suppliers, the State Department of Correctional Services (SDCS) and the Government Printer respectively. As at the date of this letter, the authority is allocating number plates series KDD-P against the last series supplied KDD-L thus translating to a deficit of 3,000 number plates pending supply,” read part of the letter by Mr Njao.

“In addition to congestion at the Port of Mombasa, this delay has led to an outcry from motor vehicle dealers which have not only been inconvenienced but have to pay demurrage charges on a matter which is beyond their control. Both the SDCS and Government Printer have apprised us on the challenges they are experiencing in production which they have projected will be resolved in the next couple of days.”

NTSA now has asked KRA to release all registered vehicles to reduce congestion and cost to importers.

“As you are aware, the authority introduced a Third Plate Sticker (e-sticker) to among other things, enhance identification of registered motor vehicles. As a stop gap measure we kindly request you to authorise the release of vehicles which have been duly registered and the e-sticker affixed on their windshield, pending issuance of the physical number plates and the logbooks. In the meantime, we are working closely with our suppliers to address the challenges,” said NTSA director general. –

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