More than 700 imported vehicles and cargo in 7,000 containers abandoned at the Mombasa port will be destroyed. The exact value of the cargo could not be established, because owners did not lodge documents to show their value, but it was estimated to be worth billions of shillings.

Acting Finance Minister John Michuki announced in Mombasa on Wednesday, saying the cars would be crushed and sold as scrap because they had been at the port for long and were more than eight years old. Imported cars older than eight years are not allowed into the country.

Mr Michuki gave port users up to October 31, to embrace 24-hour operations. Addressing stakeholders, he said the containers had taken up space at the port, and would be destroyed.
"The question whether the goods should continue lying at the port or not has been a subject of public interest. It has been decided that Customs will advertise the vehicles before they are crushed into scrap metal," he said.

Transport Assistant Minister John Mwau, Environment Assistant Minister Ramadhan Kajembe, Attorney-General Amos Wako, Finance PS Joseph Kinyua, Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) Commissioner-General Michael Waweru and KPA acting Managing Director James Mulewa, among others, accompanied Michuki.

The stakeholders were drawn from the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, Kenya Shippers Council, Kenya Transport Association and Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association (Kifwa) among others. The minister said officials from the National Environment Management Authority had been directed to deal with containers with cargo that could be an environmental hazard.

However, Minister Michuki assured a representative of the Ugandan government, Mr Patrick Kyemba, that exporters from the neighbouring country would be allowed to collect their vehicles if they presented ownership documents to KRA.

Kyemba had pleaded with the minister to allow Ugandans more time to remove their vehicles from the port to container freight stations in Mombasa. During the meeting, Michuki directed KRA and KPA to merge their electronic clearance systems by October 31, to allow quick processing of cargo documents.

The minister said the 24-hour port operation, which was introduced on August 18, had not improved the flow of cargo through the port because of teething problems.He asked KPA to seek approval for a Sh1.5 billion loan from the Finance ministry, to buy cargo-handling equipment to boost the 24-hour port operation. Michuki said he had written to Internal Security Minister George Saitoti, asking him to provide more police officers for security during night port operations.

He said there was a high risk of losses at the port due to insecurity, adding that adequate security personnel must back the round-the-clock operations. Michuki also said he had written to Industrialisation Minister Henry Kosgey, urging him to ensure that Kenya Bureau of Standards had personnel on night duty.

"After visiting the port yesterday (Tuesday), I wrote to the two ministers so that they can act to ensure the 24-hour port operations succeed," he said. At the same time, Michuki announced that idlers would be kicked out of the port to end corruption. "By October 31, clearing and forwarding agents should operate from their offices in town and not the port. All busybodies must be removed because they promote corruption," he said.

Michuki said he would convene a port stakeholders’ meeting on November 10 to ensure his deadline was honoured by KRA and KPA. He took issue with Coast MPs demanding that KPA managing director must be from the region, saying the port was an international facility. "This is an international port and should not be treated as a village project. The only reason why one should serve as KPA MD is competency," Michuki said.

Mr Waweru said KRA would not allow KPA to transfer cargo directly from the port to inland container depots upcountry until it executed Sh500 million-security bond.
If allowed, he explained, it would lead to loss of revenue.