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Multiple impact of Empty Freight Transport trips along the Northern Corridor


The COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged all sectors of the economy with measures, guidelines and protocols instituted by the East African region and individual Northern Corridor Member States to curb the spread of the Coronavirus disease. The measures are partly seen to be contributing to delays in clearance and movement of cargo at both the port of Mombasa and along the Corridor. These delays have resulted into for example, longer truck turnaround times to neighbouring countries.

The Empty Freight Transport trips have a particular impact on costs of doing business on importers who often incur additional charges in the form of penalties associated with delays in cargo clearance and return of empty containers.

Although some measures were taken to ease the burden of costs associated with the delays in cargo clearance and return of empty containers by introducing the Through Bill of Lading (TBL) that enables importers to designate cargo directly to Nairobi Inland Container Depot (ICD) as well as extending free period on return of empty containers from 45 days to 52 days and 14 days to 17 days for transit and domestic traffic respectively road transport rates have been increasing. This development may be attributed more to the decreased truck turnaround time during the period of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Moving empty containers on SGR to designated yards has no extra costs to the importers and has no logistical nightmares for the shippers.

As a comparative illustration, road transport rates from the port of Mombasa to Bujumbura, Kigali and Goma are generally high, between 2.23 and 3.13USD per Kilometre per container, whereas the transport rates from Dar es Salaam Port to those destinations are between 2.01 and 2.63USD per kilometre per container. The transport rates from Mombasa to Nairobi and Juba are at 1.7 and 2.86USD per kilometre per container, respectively.

The high transport costs along the Corridor may not only attributed to empty return trips by trucks after offloading imports but also to other main factors including trade imbalance (imports and exports), non-harmonised road user charges, high visa costs from the region and inadequate infrastructure development hampering intra-regional trade among others.

The environmental impact of the empty freight transport trips along the Northern Corridor region has also been documented.The onward Trucks journey from the port of Mombasa to hinterland countries constitute 58 percent of estimated total Greenhouse Gas emissions and return journey constitute 42 percent. In the return journey, the empty Freight transport trips contributed 59 percent and loaded trips contributed 41 percent of the estimated total Greenhouse Gas emissions of the return journey.


Carbon Dioxide (CO₂) emissions account for major emissions compared to other Greenhouse Gases in the region

The estimated total Greenhouse Gas emissions of Northern Corridor are 1.73 Million Metric tons of Carbon dioxide equivalent, out of which Carbon Dioxide (CO₂) emissions account for about 98.75 per cent; followed by Nitrous Oxide (N2O) emissions and Methane (CH₄) emissions are comparatively very small. Hence, the Climate Change Mitigation measures which need to be planned for the Northern Corridor region require to focus mainly on reducing Carbon Dioxide emissions.

The top 10 routes having maximum Greenhouse Gas emissions along the Northern Corridor are: Mombasa-Malaba, Mombasa-Nairobi, Mombasa-Busia, Nairobi-Busia, Busitema-Kampala, Luwero-Elegu, Luwero-Goli, Mbale-Goli, Mubende- Kasindi and Mbale-Elegu. Out of 25 routes in Northern Corridor region, these 10 routes constituted 86 per cent of estimated total Green House Gas emissions of the corridor. 

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