Border closures cause delays in moving goods across East Africa

Saturday April 04 2020

 The logistics sector is reeling from the coronavirus pandemic as 31 countries in Africa have imposed full border closures, with the others allowing only cargo and basic goods into their countries.

In East Africa, transporters are experiencing increased delays in ferrying cargo from the port of Mombasa due to delays in clearing after Customs officials, Kenya Ports Authority and Kenya Trade Network Agency (KenTrade)—the only state agencies mandated to facilitate cross-border movement of goods—reduced their workforce as a precautionary measure against contracting the virus.

Traders facing technical hitches when lodging documents to process their cargo clearance paperwork will have to wait longer after KenTrade suspended operations at its face-to-face customer centre.

“We wish to notify our stakeholders that Kentrade will continue to offer the Kenya TradeNet System services to all users. Please note we will not handle any customer at our contact centre office as a precautionary measure to ensure that we minimise the risk of exposure and spread of the virus,” reads a notice from the agency.

At the port of Mombasa, stripping of cargo has also decreased after the management reduced the number of shifts from four to two since the introduction of the 7pm-5am curfew in Kenya on March 27.

Delays in vessel clearance to dock at the port have also increased significantly after it was made mandatory for all Border closures cause delays in moving goods across the region.


In addition, state agencies have reduced their workforce and reviewed operations due to coronavirus fears ships to undergo inspection, and their crew screened for the virus.

To address this challenge, Bolloré Transport and Logistics has improvised servicing of clients while observing the country’s Ministry of Health requirements.

“The company is co-ordinating the efforts of its international network to devise alternative supply solutions to the closing of airports and some land borders,” reads a section of Bolloré's statement on the impact of Covid-19.

In Kenya, the company says the curfew has affected office hours for its Customs office, which currently runs between 9am and 3pm, with half the number of staff.

The company is now pre-drafting inward entries to enable faster placement of shipments to Customs verification and release processes.

Many companies have had to rationalise their operations with those of the port.

Border screening

The new transport requirements have led to a low supply of trucks due to stringent medical screening at all border points, with only drivers, their assistants and the clearing agent allowed to cross.

The mandatory requirement for all returning cargo crew to self-isolate for 14 days has resulted in a shortage of drivers.

While companies adjust to meet curfew and health requirements, clients have been notified to anticipate delays of up to 72 hours at border crossings inbound and outbound.

Car dealers in Mombasa who import or handle imports for the region expect congestion at their depots since no vehicle is being ferried outside Kenya.

About 9,500 imported vehicles pass through the port of Mombasa every month, with Uganda importing an average of 2,700 cars per month.