Dar es Salaam.
The Tanzanian government is investing some TShs. 2.2trillion (about UGX. 3.5trillion) in expanding its main sea ports of Dar es Salaam, Tanga and Mtwara.
This huge investment is part of President John Pombe Magufuli’s Central Corridor blueprint, with an ultimate goal of wooing traders from East, Central and Southern Africa in to using Tanzania sea ports for international trade.
About 50 per cent of this money is being injected in upgrading the Dar es Salaam which handles over 90 per cent of international trade goods consumed locally and those in transit. Other countries that use the Dar Port are DR Congo, Zambia, Rwanda, Burundi, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Uganda and South Sudan.
On completion, the Dar Port will be able to handle 6000 containers vessels from the current 4000 containers capacity. It will also have 7 modernised vessel berths, a 15 metres deep harbour, better port layout and direct connection to both the Standard and Metre gauge railways among other facilities.
In a recent interview, Mr Elihuruma Lema, the acting Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA) Director for Dar es Salaam noted that at the end of the on-going works, the Dar es Salaam Port will be the most sought-after port in the region.
“Dare es Salaam Port was designed to handle around 13.5 million tonnes. Recently, we have been handling more than 15 million tonnes. As such, we have been having capacity issues and these necessitated an urgent expansion. The moment we complete the works on the port overhaul and also finish the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), we shall be faster, cheaper and more efficient,” Mr Lema said, adding:
“We are also undertaking the electronic single window system. We are planning that this system will be integrated with the non-intrusive cargo scanners so that once you log in to that electronic single window system, you can track your cargo and know where it is. The single window system will cover government institutions in addition to being linked with neighboring countries. This will be completed in about three years.”
At the back of the Dar Port expansion are deliberate efforts to acquire more TPA customers in addition to retaining those already existing.
Uganda is the main country that Tanzania is courting thanks to its trade potential (currently enjoyed by Mombasa Port), coupled with ability to unlock both the South Sudan and eastern DR Congo markets.
The 2018 Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) ranks Uganda as the leading user of the Mombasa Port in terms of transit cargo, covering about 82 per cent of all imports and exports.
Even worse for Tanzania is the fact that Uganda goods passing through Dar es Salaam declined in the recent financial year.
According to statistics from TPA, about 187,000 tonnes of Uganda goods were processed through Dar es Salaam in the 2018/19 financial year, compared to the over 225,000 tonnes processed in the 2017/18 financial year. The sharp decline was attributed to railway infrastructure challenges that affected local cargo transportation system.
Nonetheless, TPA and other Tanzania trade facilitation agencies are pulling all strings to change the direction of this narrative.
Key among the incentives that TPA is offering to Uganda is longer transit cargo grace period of 30 days, compared to 14 days for goods destined to other countries. The other is dedicated customer support and cost effectiveness.
“We have created a Ugandan cargo communication group that has TPA, Tanzania, Railway Corporations, URA, clearing agents and all other trade facilitation agencies. The moment cargo is offloaded; we start monitoring and sharing information. Once a customer from Uganda has a challenge, it is dropped in the group and we handle it immediately. This support is 24/7,” Mr Lema.
In addition, the ongoing refurbishment of the inland Mwanza Port on the shores of Lake Victoria and SGR works are meant to address the inland transport glitches along the central corridor. But then, even Kenya is equally improving the northern corridor with concentration on SGR and refurbishing Kisumu Port.
Even though it is not yet all systems go at TPA, the current works on the Dar Port which are part of the rivalry between Dar es Salaam and Mombasa are positive for Ugandan traders.