COVID-19: Some ports report persistent cross-border truck congestion to hinterland

In the weekly report prepared and released by the WPSP-IAPH World Ports COVID-19 Task Force, there are reports of persisting cross-border congestion for some ports, resulting in a modal switch away from trucks. Border checks, a lower availability of truck drivers and disruptions in terminal operations can negatively affect trucking operations in/out of the port area and to the hinterland. 

Moreover, the restriction to enter neighboring countries, temperature screening, need to quarantine drivers for 14 days before the trip continues and the shortage of public health staff at borders are among administrative issues that continue to lead to such delays. 

About 12% of the ports surveyed report delays (6-24 hours) or heavy delays (> 24 hours) in cross-border road transportation with 6% of the ports indicating that cross-border trucking has been discontinued. Although this is a minor improvement compared to last week, the situation remains precarious for a number of ports.

In some cases, ports have sought to alleviate congestion at the quayside caused by increased controls on trucks and truckers at borders by evacuating import containers en-masse by rail, either to hinterland depots or to staging locations closer to the border away from the port. 

As an example, to facilitate improved quayside operations on the East African coast, inland rail services transporting up to several thousand TEUs improves cross-border transit with landlocked countries.

Kenya Ports Authority Head of Corporate Affairs and member of the WPSP COVID19 Task Force Bernard O. Osero commented: “Every day, we dispatch 10 trains from Mombasa carrying hinterland-destined cargo to Nairobi depot, 500 kilometers away. This is about 1000 TEUs a day. 

“In addition, from this week, we have opened a special service directly from Mombasa to Naivasha depot 650 kilometers away from Mombasa and 400 kilometers from the border, specifically for transit traffic. This is an average of 100 TEUs and it is expected to increase.”

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