Importers and exporters using the port of Mombasa are ready for the full rollout of the Integrated Customs Management System (iCMS) in October.
The Kenya Revenue Authority has been piloting the iCMS system in phases at the port since 2019, starting with clearing of motor vehicles, bulk cargo and export cargo.
“KRA has planned to fully roll out clearance of containerised cargo from October 22, 2021. Thereafter all imports and exports shall be cleared through the iCMS system.
“This is to request you to notify all KSAA members of the intended switch over from the MMS/Simba to the iCMS system,” Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) assistant commissioner James Karugu wrote in the September 15 letter to the Kenya Ships Agent Association (KSAA).
KSAA Chief Executive Juma Ali Tellah confirmed KRA’s directive but added the implementation of the iCMS has nothing to do with apparent delays being experienced at the Malaba border or elsewhere.
“As far as the shipping agents are concerned, iCMS helps to submit the manifest into the KRA system, which is then used by the forwarders to clear their cargo,” said Tellah.
Roy Mwanthi, the Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association chairman said the delays at the border are only for a few days.
The new system has interactive capabilities that will eliminate redundant processes and automate all manual processes in the Simba System. In the iCMS, traders are required to submit sea manifests for both imports and exports 48 hours before a vessel arrives or departs.
KRA has created customer care desks at different custom points and at the Long House, the KRA headquarters in Mombasa, at the port of Mombasa and at Malaba border to assist shipping agents facing difficulties.’’
Nevertheless, a section of traders are concerned by user challenges, more so at the border crossing points, where the new custom monitoring system is being integrated with the Sea Cargo Release Module by the Kenya Trade Network Agency.
“We have been stuck in long queues here at the Malaba border. We are not moving. The snarl up is more than 35km inside Kenya. We now take more than three days since last week, from Mombasa to Kampala,” said Paul Lumumba, a Kenyan truck driver.
“The traffic snarl up is being caused by Customs and Immigration at the moment. We are taking so long to go through the procedures and no one is telling us why?
“The iCMS is heavily used by the shipping agents. The transporters have not even been sensitised on the areas for use,” said Mercy Ireri, the chief executive Kenya Transporters Association.
The iCMS was launched in line with the World Trade Organisation’s requirement for simplification and harmonisation of international trade procedures. The iCMS involves submitting export or import documents into a single-window system and is expected to reduce clearing time by at least 60 percent. It replaces the Simba System, which runs on multiple platforms and requires multiple points of authentication for users.