US proposes new cargo regulations to boost surveillance at Kenya ports

Wednesday August 05 2015

The US is proposing radical changes in Kenya’s port cargo handling procedures to help reduce illicit trade and lock out high-risk consignments.

The US government wants Kenya to adopt the Cargo Targeting System (CTS) for cargo processing, the two nations said in a joint communiqué following the recent visit by President Barack Obama. The revelation came ahead of a visit to Washington by a senior Kenyan delegation to discuss best practices in port management.

“In addition, the United States commits to work with the government of Kenya to explore the possibility of developing a CTS to receive electronic cargo manifest data from shipping lines to target high-risk shipments based on risk profiles,” the document released by the White House read in part.

The CTS enables port and security authorities to access electronic cargo manifest data in advance and carry out assessment of risks and target high-risk consignments moving through the supply chain.

This has a benefit to the international trade community by increasing supply chain visibility and security, promoting fair and effective revenue collection, reducing levels of illicit trade and allowing better allocation of resources.

Of late, Kenya has been facing security threats from the Somalia militant group, Al-Shabaab, which has been blamed for recent attacks on civilians and security personnel. There has also been concern about the incessant trafficking of small arms, drugs and contraband sugar worth millions of shillings.


International navies have recently nabbed large consignments of drugs off the Kenyan Coast, raising fears that the port of Mombasa may be targetted by barons engaged in illicit trade.

Poorly funded and short of anti-trafficking expertise, East African countries rely on the Combined Maritime Force (CMF) to go after drug traffickers.

Although the 30-nation naval force was set up to protect busy shipping lanes from Somali pirates, it is intercepting more and more drug deliveries.


In 2014 it seized 3.4 tonnes of heroin, a 66 per cent increase from 2013. In April 2014, CMF forces boarded a traditional wooden dhow and found a tonne of heroin stashed among cement bags. That was roughly equal to all the heroin that 11 Eastern African governments had seized between 1990 and 2009, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

Then in July, for the first time ever, Kenya’s navy made a major heroin seizure, acting on a tip off by a western agency. It intercepted a vessel that had set off from Pakistan and towed it into port in Mombasa where nearly 800 kg of heroin was discovered hidden in its diesel tank.

The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), uses a risk-based approach that uses the Automated Targeting System (ATS) and other tools to identify maritime cargo shipments for further examination.

The ATS is a web-based enforcement and decision support system that includes a set of rules to assess the risk level for each arriving cargo shipment. This set of rules is referred to as the maritime national security weight set (weight set) because each rule in the set has a specific weighted value assigned to it.

CBP classifies the risk scores from the weight set as low, medium, or high risk. CBP policy states that a shipment’s risk score is to determine, in part, actions taken by CBP officers (targeters) at the ports.

Specifically, targeters are generally required to review shipment data for all medium-risk and high-risk shipments and hold high-risk shipments for examination.

Kenya is presently rolling out an enhanced coordinated port operations programme under the Border Control and Operations Coordination Committee to coordinate efforts that will lead to increased efficiency and transparency in customs and clearance procedures.

Single command

Hundreds of Customs officials with security training have been redeployed to border entry points in a major security shake-up that has seen the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) incorporated into the National Security Advisory Committee. The border control officers (BCO) work in coordination with the police following a presidential order in 2014 that brought all security agencies under a single command.

“Customs plays several roles including trade facilitation, revenue collection and security. In the past security has not been given prominence but security is critical because the survival of the State is predicated on security,” John Njiraini told a media briefing on the reforms in January.

“Going forward we are going to see Customs focus more on security.”

Besides enhancing cargo surveillance at its sea ports, the US has also beefed up inspection of air cargo consignments after authorities in October 2010 discovered two US-bound packages from Yemen containing viable bombs capable of bringing down aircraft.

Forensic experts said the two bombs were designed to detonate in mid-air over Chicago, and attributed this plot to Al Qaeda.

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