Businesspeople protest against container inspection taxes at Maputo port

26 December 2006

Maputo, Mozambique, 26 Dec – Mozambican and foreign businesspeople have been protesting against the taxes applied by the company that carries out digital inspection of containers at the port of Maputo.

According to a report published in independent weekly newspaper Savana, quoted by Mozambican news agency AIM, nobody is opposed to the electronic inspection of cargo as it is not necessary to open the containers for customs workers to carry out their work.

The problem lies in the taxes applied by the company that manages the scanner set up at Maputo port, Kudumba Investimentos.

All the containers have to pay a charge of US$100 per TEU (twenty foot equivalent unit) for imports, US$70 for exports and US$40 when the container is in transit. When the container is empty a US$20 charge is applied.

As most containers are 40 feet long, or 2 TEU, an importer has to pay US$200 to receive his goods, which is US$200 more than before electronic inspection was introduced.

The weekly said that the companies have had to pay the price whether or not the containers have passed through the scanner and added that Kudumba had begun demanding payment for bulk cargo such as coal or granite, which is not carried ion containers and is not a smuggling risk.

The Maputo Corridor Logistics Initiative (MCLI), which brings together businesspeople form South Africa and Mozambique, is disappointed with the rates applied for use of the scanner.

The president of the MCLI, Brenda Horne, interviewed by the South African press, said that the taxes were putting into question the advantages of using the port of Maputo.

She added that both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund had told the Mozambican government they were concerned that the rates applied by the company were not in line with those practised internationally and that they were unacceptable.

Arguing that this was a charge that netted the company US$6 million per year, Horne said she was concerned that the taxes could move business away from Maputo port to those of Durban or Richard’s Bay in South Africa.

Horne gave the port of Durban as an example, where only 10 to 15 percent of containers are inspected electronically and that the customs authorities themselves carried out this work without charge.

“What is happening in Mozambique is that Kudumba Investimentos, with the official approval of the government, is applying a charge on all cargo that passes through the port,” Horne said.

Kudumba Investimentos is a company that was set up in 2004 and was granted the tender for use of scanners to inspect the contents of containers at the port of Maputo and, in the long term, the country’s main ports, such as Beira and Nacala.

The company is 40-percent owned by a Lebanese businessman, with SPI, Gestão e Investimentos, a holding company that manages the businesses of government party Frelimo, owning a 35 percent share. (macauhub)

MACAUHUB FRENCH