Workers uncover the waterproof cloth covered on grains transported on the bulk grain shipping line of the Grain Bulk Handlers Ltd (GBHL) in Nairobi, Kenya, May 18, 2022. (Xinhua/Long Lei)
NAIROBI, May 25 (Xinhua) -- The Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) freight service has facilitated the seamless movement of imported bulk cargo to the hinterland since its launch in January 2018, logistics and supply chains players have said.
Edward Opiyo, the Terminal manager at Nairobi Freight Terminals Limited, a private logistics firm directly linked to the SGR freight service, said it has provided a fast, efficient and cost-effective means of transporting bulk cargo.
During a recent interview with Xinhua ahead of the 5th anniversary of the launch of the modern railway, Opiyo said it has elevated Kenya's status as a transport and logistics hub.
"We are serviced by the SGR, which moves cargo directly from the port of Mombasa to Nairobi freight terminal, we are linked directly and therefore we act as a hub for physical distribution of cargo from Nairobi to hinterland destinations," said Opiyo.
He said that Nairobi freight terminals that are embedded in the SGR freight service operations have ample facilities like warehouses that can accommodate bulk cargo.
According to Opiyo, the 36-hectare yard which is served by four railway lines has state-of-the-art equipment like forklifts and trucks that are able to handle imported cargo belonging to local and regional clients.
He said the SGR has eased congestion while improving efficiency at the Mombasa port, which also serves the landlocked east and central African countries. Local and regional supply chains have been transformed since the launch of the SGR freight service, amid the guarantee of an efficient, cheaper and environmentally friendly mode of hauling bulk cargo.
On average, it takes eight hours to transport cargo from the port of Mombasa to Nairobi using the SGR as opposed to three days via the meter gauge railway that was laden with risks, said Opiyo.
He believed the port of Mombasa has become a cheaper alternative for the shipment of goods and services to the wider east and central African region due to its linkage with the SGR freight service.
Also, thanks to the China-built modern railway, importers have reduced their over-reliance on trucks to transport bulk cargo, shielding them from the risk of theft and damage to their goods, said Opiyo. "With the Standard Gauge Railway, we are able to move safely, securely and faster, reaching the destination in the shortest time possible and this helps a lot in the movement of cargo and builds up the volume that would generate more revenue and income."
The former employee of the Kenya Ports Authority who was instrumental in the design and execution of SGR freight service operations disclosed that Afristar, the operator of SGR freight service, has been operating 17 cargo trains daily between Mombasa and Nairobi.
Opiyo revealed that his major clients include manufacturers importing raw material from the far east including China, adding that courtesy of the SGR, regional integration and commerce have flourished.
Ernest Ondego, the Terminal manager at Grain Bulk Handlers Limited, a Kenyan logistics company, said since the launch of the SGR freight service, transporting large quantities of imported wheat from the port of Mombasa to the bonded warehouses in Nairobi has been efficient, safe and cost-effective.
"Since 2019, all our clients have seen the enormous benefits the SGR has brought in terms of cost reduction by firms saving up to 25 percent. With the SGR, we have been able to bring transit losses to zero," said Ondego, noting that importers used to lose up to 100 kg of grains per truckload.
According to Ondego, consumers have also benefited from the reduced cost of transporting grain from the port of Mombasa to the hinterland using the SGR freight service.
He said Kenyan logistics firms were excited about the prospects of SGR extending to neighboring Uganda, amid reduced cost of transporting goods and enhanced safety.
Ondego said supply chain players had fully backed the modern cargo train service while acknowledging that the SGR was one of Kenya's legacy projects, that will enhance the realization of the country's long-term development agenda. ■
A worker unloads a container from a train in Nairobi freight terminal in Nairobi, Kenya, May 18, 2022. (Xinhua/Long Lei)