Kenya introduces “Single window system” to improve port efficiency

Kenya is adopting a new system for increasing port efficiency by digitizing and automating mundane administrative procedures. This particular system known as the Single window system will address the ever-present challenge of heavy ship traffic and congestion at the port of Mombasa.

After six months of initial testing, the single maritime window system was unveiled on June 2nd. The system involves shipping agents concerned to electronically declare relevant details of their ship such as the arrival and departure beforehand. This information is digitized and hence can be leveraged to give great administrative advantage and prevent losses that are incurred by the importers as demurrage charges. Implementation of the system is as demarcated by a convention of the International Maritime Organization for facilitation of maritime traffic, more commonly known as the FAL convention. According to this convention the government is mandated to have electronic communications between ships and ports.

The Idea that lies at the very heart of the FAL convention is the digitalization of the maritime world data and using it to improve communications and reduce the burden of administration. This leads to optimization of the logistics chain by greatly increasing efficiency and simplifying cross-border trade for the 10 billion tons of goods transported by ships every year.

The FAL convention was ratified by 120 of the IMO’s member states, which includes Kenya. The convention came into effect in April 2019. The guidelines laid out by the FAL convention recommend the use of a “single window” concept which essentially means that information exchange carried out between shipping agencies and the authorities is through a single point of contact. This cuts out the duplicated and lengthy processes often cited as the reason for delays.

With the system being adopted by Kenya, at least 12 forms for obtaining ship clearance have been automated. This move alone is expected to significantly improve the turnaround time for ships. This system comes as a much-needed relief, as Mombasa port has to regularly grapple with ship congestion.

A combined total of 20 shipping lines make calls to the Port of Mombasa, which averages to about 35 ships per week. The Mombasa port has reported a steady increase in throughput with an 11% increase in tonnage in 2019.

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