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Why MPs want dangerous cargo tansported using SGR

Parliament wants all dangerous cargo to be transported from Mombasa to Nairobi and beyond through the standard gauge railway (SGR) in proposals that could also see importers pay reduced levy.

The National Assembly’s transport committee is rooting for the move that will not only remove such goods like petroleum products from congested roads, enhancing public safety, but also make the railways more attractive to importers.

“We are recommending that bulk, dangerous cargo such as fertiliser and petroleum products, dirty cargo and those weighing over 32 tonnes must be moved through the SGR,” David Pkosing, who chairs the committee inquiring into State directive on the use of SGR for all cargo destined to Nairobi and beyond said.

Last month, the State backed down from its earlier directive on the use of SGR for all cargo destined to Nairobi and beyond following pressure from regional economies.

In May, Transport CS James Macharia announced that all cargo destined for Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan will be transported through the SGR for clearance at the ICD starting June 1.

The May order by Mr Macharia was informed by the need to contain the spread of coronavirus pandemic.

The Transport committee which met with Mr Macharia and MPs from coast region led by Abdulswamad Nassir wants the government to cut the Railway Development Levy by 0.5 percent from the current two per cent as incentive to importers or transporters of cargo using SGR.

“We are pursuing a possibility that if you use SGR to transport your cargo from Mombasa to Nairobi and beyond, you will be required to pay 1.5 percent as Railway Development Levy and not the current two percent of the value of goods.

“This levy was to promote SGR construction and importers are now promoting SGR through hauling cargo using it,” the committee said.

The inquiry team said it is considering changes to the law to ensure that all cargo imported by State agencies must be transported via the SGR.

The committee said the recommendations which will be tabled in the House will help SGR to attract business willingly rather than through government directives.

“We don’t want to force importers to use SGR but make it a choice for transporters. We want SGR to sell itself and we will be asking the government to review the tariffs to make SGR competitive,” Mr Pkosing said.

The committee wants the Transport ministry to revisit the issue of last mile connectivity of SGR and the return of empty containers to the Port of Mombasa.

“The issue of last mile, Inland Container Deport and return of containers to Mombasa should be one package and the cost should be one,” the Pokot South MP said.

Mr Nassir, who led MPs from coast region in the meeting with Mr Macharia demanded that importers be given freedom to haul their goods from the port to the final destination without restrictions from any government agency.

“Importers should be able to choose freely from a pool of transporters to haul their goods. Importers should have the freedom to nominate a Container Freight Service company of their choice to clear their goods regardless of the final destination of the goods,” Mr Nassir said.

The Mvita MP has demanded a number of ministerial statements over the directive that truck drivers pick up transit cargo from Naivasha ICD depot.