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Kenya Ports Authority Kigali Liaison Office Guarantees world-class service to Rwandan traders

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For a country like Rwanda, with no access to the continent’s massive water bodies, finding possible solutions to ease the movement of goods to and from it is vital to boosting trade.But yet still, the distance that exists between the country and the closest ports is long, hence a need for added facilities if trade in the country especially export is to be increased to more volumes.

As a member of the East African Community, Rwanda is served largely through the Port of Mombasa on Kenya’s coastline and thus improving access to the facilities of the port, is vital in facilitating local import and export. The need to bring the services of the port closer to Rwandan traders and consequently use this ground to reach out to traders in other parts like Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya Port’s Authority (KPA) approximately a year ago opened a liaison office in Kigali.

To understand the impact that the office has had on trade and to establish the services on offer, Hope met up with the Country Representative (Rwanda) Ms. Cynthia Kamau, who expounded on these points and many more. Excerpts follow.

HOPE: Briefly tell us about KPA and the role of the Rwanda liaison office?

KPA: Kenya Ports Authority is the biggest Port in the region with a network of Liaison offices in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda & Burundi. The Authority’s mandate is to maintain, operate, improve and regulate all scheduled sea ports situated along Kenya’s coastline. Other ports include Lamu, Malindi, Kilifi, Mtwapa, Kiunga, Shimoni, Funzi and Vanga. It is only the Port of Mombasa which is fully developed with modern equipment hence making it the principal port in the region.

The port has as its core services;

Safe navigation, Pilotage, Berthing, Mooring, Pollution control, Stevedoring, Shore handling, and Storage services

Particularly for cargo owners, the Port offers a wide range of shipping services to key destinations around the world. Our major markets comprise Western Europe, Asia, Far East, the Americas and the rest of Africa. There are regular feeder services between Mombasa and Dar- Es- Salaam, Durban, Mogadishu, Djibouti, Salalah and Dubai.

The Rwanda Office

The KPA Kigali Liaison office targets to facilitate the import and export business in Rwanda by co-coordinating all KPA activities from Kigali. We have brought the Port of Mombasa closer to you and we are offering customer support services in documentation, invoicing, payment and cargo tracking for imports and exports of consignments that are at the Port.

From our office located at the 6th Floor of the Grand Pension Plaza in Kigali, We have made it easier to import and export through Mombasa and you can now get real time one- on -one customer support in clearing and paying for your consignments because we are directly connected to Mombasa, and the other regional offices and are able therefore to facilitate whenever one is stuck.

HOPE: The liaison office in Kigali is a year old now. Tell us about your experience so far?

KPA: At a turning point in the History of the region, The Port of Mombasa opened a second Liaison office in Kigali on July 19th 2013.This was in line with our promise of having representation in Rwanda and Burundi to cater for the business community in these countries and the neighboring DRC.

When we launched on July 19th 2013, we meant business and we have endeavored to grow the businesses and enrich the lives of all the people in the region. As our cargo volumes grow year on year we are transforming our infrastructure and processes to cope with the increased demand from our customers. In the past few months we have already achieved much but there is much more to come.

On 31st January this Year, we opened the Burundi office, the third of our liaison offices. The dredging programme was completed to enable larger vessels to call at our berths, We have opened Berth No. 19 to increase our annual container handling capacity to a quarter of a million (Twenty Foot Equivalent Units(teu) and we have started work on the second container terminal and the megaport project in Lamu. The Single Customs Territory on the Northern Corridor went live on March 15th this year and certainly with every new system there are bound to be some teething problems. By holding regular consultative meetings with Port customers and other stakeholders we have been able to ensure that cargo clearance is fast tracked using this new system and all issues are attended to in real time.

 HOPE: What does KPA’S presence in Kigali mean for the region, has there been any improvement in Trade?

 KPA: The Port of Mombasa’s vital role in the transport network of East Africa cannot be over emphasized. It serves a region of over 120 million people and handles cargo to Southern Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania. KPA’s presence in Kigali is a true representation of a world class sea port with a regional network of offices coordinating activities from the different countries in the region. We have brought the services closer to Kigali and given the region closer access to the Port of Mombasa making it easier and more convenient for the trader importing or exporting from all over the world. Closer integration between East African countries in the form of Trade agreements and joint co-operation has further integrated the economies in the region that are served by the Port of Mombasa, and in so doing fostering better business relations and increased trade for the entire region.

HOPE: Rwanda is trying to increase the exports, has there been any improvement on trade resulting from having a liaison office on ground?

 KPA: Yes most certainly, the Tea auctions in Mombasa have increased the market for Rwandan tea exports and trade through the Mombasa Port. The vast majority of food stuffs, vehicles, iron, steel and petroleum products that are imported or exported in the region are handled through Mombasa. The throughput is growing by as much as 10% and extensive measures are being taken to improve the capacity of the existing infrastructure as well as enhancing transport links to carry cargo out of the port as quickly as possible. Rwanda Transit trade has been growing at rate of 9% each year. Transit trade is benefitting from two government measures to improve the flow of trade from the Port of Mombasa, All cargo clearance by various government agencies are now co-ordinated by KPA and all customs decisions are now finalized in Mombasa rather than being referred to Nairobi.

HOPE: How has the Liaison office assisted to mitigate costs?

KPA: By having a Liaison office in Rwanda, all KPA activities on documentation and cargo tracking are now being co-ordinated from Kigali and clients can even make payments for Port charges in Kigali. This has eased the cargo clearance process and importers and exporters do not have to travel to clear their consignments or make payment for Port charges. Also to be more responsive to customers’ demands and keep abreast with global shipping trends the Kenya Ports Authority has teamed up with other key stakeholders to offer 24 hour services at the Port of Mombasa. This has enhanced efficiency of operations and reduced the cargo clearance time hence further reducing costs.

HOPE: Moving forward what plans does KPA have to improve service delivery?

KPA: The Port of Mombasa has been adapting to growth of volumes by making a major investment programme involving Kenya and much of East Africa. More change is coming, construction of the standard gauge railway line to Nairobi has started and will transform the efficiency of the Port; construction of the southern by-pass will start soon and will open up the potential of the proposed free trade zone at Dongo Kundu. By positioning ourselves in Rwanda and Burundi, we want our customers in these countries to know that we value and appreciate them and are determined to deliver world class services to them. Port business has revolutionized and to remain competitive in any business, you have to give excellent service and be flexible in your dealings with the Customers. We are therefore open to situations that require innovative solutions so as to safeguard trade and so we encourage feedback from our customers and partnering stakeholders on where we need to improve to serve the transit customers better. We assure our customers of our continuos dedicated commitment in giving excellent world class service and we are open to suggestions to facilitate trade.

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