Car importers caught in KPA and a brawl in a private port

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Car importers caught in KPA and a brawl in a private port


Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) Acting MD John Mwangemi inside Lamu Port in Lamu County. PICTURES | KÉVIN ODIT | NMG

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Summary

  • A car dealer who requested anonymity said KPA blocked all vehicles imported through the Container Freight Station (CFS) due to a long-standing dispute with Unifreight.
  • KPA confirmed the ongoing dispute, but said talks were underway to unblock the impasse over the next few days.
  • The agency did not disclose the amount owed to it, and Unifreight had not responded to our questions at press time.

Car importers who had selected Unifreight cargo handlers have been caught up in a fight between the private port owner and the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) which has blocked clearance of their vehicles for almost a month.

A car dealer who requested anonymity said KPA blocked all vehicles imported through the Container Freight Station (CFS) due to a long-standing dispute with Unifreight.

KPA confirmed the ongoing dispute, but said talks were underway to unblock the impasse over the next few days.

The agency did not disclose the amount owed to it, and Unifreight had not responded to our questions at press time.

“KPA is working with Unifreight CFS to resolve this long-standing issue. And we expect to wrap up in the next few days,” KPA Acting Chief Executive John Mwangemi said.

The delay has hit car importers, stranding units and hurting their cash flow at a time when the sector is grappling with soaring import prices and global supply disruptions.

Importers who had listed Unifreight as CFS on their shipping documents have no choice but to continue to pressure KPA and the company to resolve their issue as they cannot change the consignee of their vehicles.

“As customers, our cars have been stuck for three weeks and no one is listening to us. As customers, we have no debt but KPA is using us as a hostage and bargaining power with Unifreight,” said the car dealer who requested anonymity.

Auto dealers are facing increased competition from buyers in source markets such as Japan and the UK as automakers cut production due to shortages of semiconductors used in devices electronics.

Most buyers in developed markets would typically buy new cars, but are now resorting to buying used models in response to shortages.

The economic uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has also seen consumers in developed countries hold on to their cars for longer than usual, further squeezing import-dependent Kenya’s supply.

Used car prices in Kenya have jumped 37% on average over the past six months as demand outstrips global supply due to production cuts, pushing small cars like the Nissan Note and Toyota Vitz to the fore. above the one million shilling mark.

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