TANZANIA'S ports efficient and competitiveness rates have started to attract new customers - this time from Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda.
The three countries have both option of using Dar es Salaam or Mombasa ports but efficient in cargo clearance, safety and security play a big role on wooing back clients.
On Tuesday it was reported that Rwandese importers and exporters are turning to Dar es Salaam port, due to relative affordability in clearing and forwarding rates compared to Mombasa port in Kenya.
The Minister for Transport, Dr Harrison Mwakyembe, said recently that in order to cope with the current ports competitions in the region, Dar es Salaam has to run as there was no time to waste. Clients may start looking elsewhere.
"We have to run and increase capacity ahead of demand as some ports are already ahead from us," Dr Mwakyembe said, during the European Unions' ambassadors tour of Dar port to inspect its efficiency.
The minister said that Burundians and Ugandans have shown a huge interest of using the country's ports, especially Dar es Salaam port and Mwambani in Tanga. Last week a Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA) delegation toured Kampala on the same mission.
Rwanda's clearing and forwarding agent, who is based in Mombasa, Kenya, Mr Robert Kalisa Zimulinda, was quoted by New Times of Rwanda as saying that many agents have shifted to Dar es Salaam owing to the numerous bottlenecks at Mombasa.
The agent said that it takes over 1,200 US dollars (about 1.92m/) to clear and transport a small car from Mombasa to Kigali compared to only 700 US dollars (1.12m/-) that's spent at the Dar es Salaam port.
"We were many at this port but because of all these barriers over 80 per cent of Rwanda clearing and forwarding agents have left for Dar. We don't have jobs here. We remain here because of the few clients who still have confidence in this port," Mr Zimulinda said.
He added that apart from the trade barriers, the port lacks capacity to handle all the imports and exports. At the port, the container terminal is congested with imported shipping containers waiting for the owners to clear them.
According to him, the ports authority provides only nine days to clear the goods after they have landed, failure of which leads to a fine of 60 US dollars (about 96,000/-) per day.
Dar port provides 14 days as grace period to clear a transit consignment. After that period a 20 twenty-foot equivalent units TEUs and 40 TEUs subjected to 32 US dollars and 72 US dollars respectively.
Other factor that led Rwandese traders to turn to Dar es Salaam was fear that the coming Kenyan general elections, slated for March 4, next year, may turn chaotic.
Thirteen port users are demanding more than 47.5 million US dollars for losses incurred in 2007 following election violence. The Kenyan Ports Authority was quoted by New Times of Rwanda as saying that they are experiencing a reduction in volume of goods handled through Mombasa port.
In the last one year Dar es Salaam port has registered positive records on efficiency in cargo clearance, safety and security. The port managed to improve stevedoring from 415 tonnes per gang shift to 446 per gang shift in October, this year.
While onshore handling of cars also improved per shift from 210 to 497 units during the same period and yard density at the main container terminal improved from an average of 62 per cent in 2011 to 52 per cent by October, this year, reflecting a no terminal congestion situation.
Other improvements in the last one year include overall ships turnaround time that has been reduced from an average of 7.3 days last year to 6.4 days per ship by last October.