The Kenya Ports Authority is transferring uncollected cargo at its Inland Container Depot (ICD) in Nairobi to nominated warehouses, in order to create space for new arrivals from Mombasa port.
Only a quarter of the 2,000 containers lying idle at the ICD have been collected, three weeks after KPA issued notices to owners.
"Containers that have been cleared and not collected are causing congestion and affecting logistics. We are transferring them to various warehouses at the cost of the owners," said KPA general manager for operations William Ruto.
"Cargo owners will pay for the re-marshalling and storage charges at the nominated warehouses."
Apparently, the cargo owners are taking advantage of the low storage charges at the container depot. KPA charges $20 for a 20ft container and $30 for a 40ft container per day, compared with $50 and $70 respectively that most private warehouses charge.
The move by KPA comes soon after regional leaders attending the 14th Summit on the Northern Corridor Integration Projects in Nairobi called on the government to improve operations at the Mombasa port in order to boost efficiency and ensure seamless clearance and movement of cargo.
Landlocked Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan depend on the port as an entry and exit point for cargo.
Mr Ruto said that KPA and other government agencies have put up a robust digital system at the ICD to facilitate quick clearance of cargo, but the failure by owners to evacuate the containers has resulted in a pile up at the facility.
"Cargo owners should not complain that the process of clearing cargo is slow because everything is done online," he said.
KPA, which is under pressure to streamline operations at the ICD as well as the port of Mombasa, is desperate to clear the containers at the Nairobi facility and create space for cargo arriving via the standard gauge railway (SGR).
Five SGR cargo service trains with an average of 600 containers arrive at the facility daily.
But importers say that the process of collecting the cargo is being slowed by the large number of trucks converging at the facility. On average, 500 trucks come to the ICD everyday, not only to collect the nominated cargo, but also to evacuate arriving cargo.
Although the government invested $200 million to increase the ICD capacity from 180,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (Teus) to 450,000 Teus, the facility is bound to continue experiencing operational constraints as the port of Mombasa competes to be the regional cargo transportation hub.
The problems facing cargo transportation have forced the government to overhaul the KPA top management, including the sacking of managing director Catherine Mturi-Wairi.