The National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) attributed the shortage of the plates to a lack of raw materials for production amid an increase in demand for car registration.
Kenya car number plates are manufactured at Kamiti Maximum Prison.
“NTSA is currently experiencing delays in production and supply of number plates and logbooks from our suppliers, the State Department of Correctional Services (SDCS) and the Government Printer respectively,” NTSA Director-General George Njao said in a notice to the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA).
The Kenya International Freight Warehousing Association chairperson Roy Mwanthi said they are incurring huge losses despite paying all port charges.
“There is congestion in different car depots in Mombasa despite clearing with KRA but the vehicles cannot be released without number plates. This has resulted in increased costs to importers as they are incurring demurrages every day. A number of importers are stranded and with more vehicles being imported at the moment, this will result in huge loss to dealers and individual importers,” said Mr Mwanthi.
Car Importers Association of Kenya (CIAK) Chairman Peter Otieno said apart from inadequate plates, there has been a system failure as the KRA platform is not reflected.
“Most of the vehicles imported since July which tally close to 7,000 have not been released. The problem started about a month ago and with more vehicles being imported this time. We are having a serious issue. We are also having issues where a car is cleared by NTSA but at the KRA system, it is not reflecting it,” said Mr Otieno.
The law requires the prisons department to make the plates. It is mandatory for imported second-hand vehicles to be fitted with number plates before leaving the port. A shortage of vehicle number plates has hit the Kenyan market, causing a backlog in the clearance of used cars at the Mombasa port over the past month.
The rule does not affect new vehicles imported by franchise holders who offload and bond the units in customs warehouses awaiting sale. The plates restrictions on second-hand clothes are meant to check tax evasion by unscrupulous traders through dumping in the local market.
Most vehicles imported since early July have not been released due to failure by the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) to supply number plates for imported vehicles.
With at least three ships scheduled to dock at the Port of Mombasa in the next few days, the situation might worsen if the problem is not resolved with traders accusing NTSA of being reluctant in resolving the matter.