The Kenya Shippers Council (KSC) has initiated talks with shipping lines and agents with the aim of reducing the cost of maritime transport, which has made the East African route one of the most expensive in the world.

The Kenya Ships Agents Association executive director, Mr Frederick Wahutu, said they were yet to agree on charges to be levied. According to Mr Wahutu, some of the levies shippers claim to pay to shipping lines and agents were not collected by the two.The shippers have complained about numerous high charges levied by shipping lines and their agents, most of which they say are unjustified.

According to a press release posted on the Kenya Association of Manufacturers’ website last week, KSC had enumerated several charges that it claims are unjustified. Cargo owners, KSC said, were concerned about the delivery order fee which, according to ship agents, is a service charge. Deliver order fee, of up to $65 depending on which shipping line one is dealing with, is charged for issuance of a letter of release of shipped goods in exchange for the bill of lading and is a practice unique only to Mombasa.

“There is a bill of lading fee which KSC regards as an unjustified cost because it is basically an invoice,” the statement says. According to Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) report, a bill of lading fee of $50-60 is levied in addition to delivery order fee.

Bill of lading is issued as a right when one pays for freight. Charging for it, the KMA report says, is equivalent to charging a fee when collecting an air ticket bought on the internet.

The amendment to the bill of lading and manifest correction is charged between $30 and $50 which is considered to be too high.

KSC has also raised concern over a $25 charge for cleaning an empty container. Whereas cleaning should only arise when the goods carried in the particular container were potentially dirty, according to KMA, the situation on the ground is that all shipping lines operating in Mombasa port collect advance cleaning fee whether the container is dirty or not.

Mr Wahutu said that in some cases shippers may release a clean container but by the time it reaches the shipping lines or his agent, it will be dirty. The shipping lines charges a terminal handling charge of $70-$80 per container.

The Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) has a similar tariff for the same container and a shipper ends up paying twice with no attendant value addition, according to KMA. “Again this is unique only to Mombasa after Tanzania scrapped the charge ages ago,” the KMA report says.