How to Import Goods Through Mombasa Port For Your Business Cheaply

Shipping Containers 2

One of the most effective ways to grow your small business is through importing. You can for instance buy some quality clothes in Turkey to boost your current stock, import sanitaryware from China for your small hardware or even get some seeds from South Africa for your agri-business project.

The world has become a global village and you cannot afford to limit your opportunities at such times. But the big question you might be having right now is “How do you bring these imports in to Kenyan soil?” This article breaks down everything you need to know so that you can import and clear your goods at the Mombasa port.

Step 1: Identify the Goods That You Wish To Import

Some popular sources of import goods for small business owners are China (popular for: electronics, electrical fittings, sanitary-ware, packaging materials), Japan (cars and electronics), Turkey (clothes), Dubai (electronics, home decor items and clothes) and South Africa (agriculture commodities).

You can choose between visiting these countries and doing your shopping online e.g. on sites like Alibaba, Aliexpress, Amazon or Ebay.

Step 2: Link Up With a Local Clearing and Forwarding Agent

After you have done your shopping, the next important thing is to find a clearing and forward agent. The job of such an agent is to ensure your goods are shipped home and received at the port of Mombasa. They will advise you on all possibilities and even suggest important recommendations to you prior to effecting the shipping arrangement. (KRA List Of Clearing & Forwarding Agents)

Step 3: Getting Your Goods Shipped

Once you pay for the goods of choice, the seller will package and take them to a shipping company. The shipping company will issue your cargo with a specific number which will be automatically lodged into the Kenya Ports Authority system known as KWATOS.

Through KWATOS, you will be able to track the whereabouts of your commodities along the way. Once the ship docks you can make a trip to Mombasa to start the clearing process (of course with the assistance of your clearing and forwarding agent).

Maersk ship

A ship in the deep seas. Image Courtesy/

Step 4: Start the Clearing Process

Now that your goods are in the Kenyan soil, you will need to apply for something called a Bill of Lading. This is the document that will prompt the shipping company to hand over your goods to the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) and Kenya Revenue Authority guys (KRA).

A Release Order will also be issued. Wow, now your goods are in the safe hands of fellow Kenyans so can you progress and claim them? Not so fast.

Step 5: Give To Caesar What Belongs To Caesar

The amount of duty and taxes paid will depend on the type of commodities you’ve imported. For instance, if you’re importing alcoholic beverages then you will be required to pay: import duty, excise duty, import declaration fee and VAT.

As for new computers, printers and books you will only be required to pay the import declaration fee which is 2.25% of total value of goods imported or Ksh5,000 whichever is higher. As a rule of the thumb, duty free commodities are generally cheaper to bring into the country – here’s a list of some of them.

*New computers



*Farm seeds

*Diapers (How To Start A Diaper Business)

*Energy saving bulbs

*Solar powered equipment

Please note that if you are importing second hand computers then you will be slapped with an excise duty fee of 25% of the total value in addition to the import declaration fee.

Step 6: Into The Long Room

Once you’ve paid duty and taxes you will be issued with official receipts and your goods will then be taken to the “Long Room”. The Long Room is simply a special unit of the Kenya Ports Authority and KRA that scrutinizes everything that comes into the country.

Of course if your cargo has no legal issues or discrepancies you’ll not need to worry about anything as you will be cleared and given the final go ahead.

Step 7: Collect Your Items

Finally your cargo will be ready for collection. You will go to the KPA gates inside the Customs Documentations Office carrying all documents and receipts issued during step 4, 5 and 6 as discussed above notably Bill of Lading, Custom Duty/Tax Receipts, Custom Release Order and Delivery Order. You will then be given permission to pass through the gate into the yard so that you can collect your goods.

Final Word

Most of the steps shared above will be undertaken by a clearing and forward agent on your behalf. However, we understand that it is very important for every entrepreneur to be familiar with them so as to avoid losing money through unscrupulous dealings or due to lack of information.

Knowledge is power, so before you order for your next consignment of goods for your small business, make sure you at least understand how goods are cleared at the Mombasa port. Feel free to share your ideas with us on this topic.

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