interviewBy Finnigan Wa Simbeye
ON November 20, 2012, Transport Minister, Dr Harrison Mwakyembe hosted EU ambassadors'tour at the Dar es Salaam port.
After the visit, Staff Writer Finnigan wa Simbeye interviewed the EU Head of Delegation, Ambassador Filiberto Sebregondi on his opinion of the port's activities . Excerpts:
Q: Why did the visit come at this point in time when the port is allegedly going back to old days of congestion?
A: The visit to the port was a response to a personal invitation by the Minister to EU HoMs with the objective to 1) witness security measures put in place in the passenger terminal following ferry disasters and 2) hold an informal four-party dialogue (Minister for Transport, EU HoMs, EU Business representatives, TPA) on efficiency improvements needed at Dar es Salaam Port.
We see the invitation came at an opportune time, right after the Minister has appointed new TPA Board. The EU HoMs made a similar type of visit in October last year and therefore yesterday's visit gave us also an opportunity to discuss progress and remaining challenges.
Q: Are the EU ambassadors impressed by the ongoing changes at Tanzania Ports Authority?
A: The EU Ambassadors noted some positive changes implemented at the port (safety measures, one stop window for clearance, etc.) but, together with business representatives, expressed serious concerns as to the remaining inefficiencies at the port, in particular in view of the important increase in volumes to be handled at the port in the future. Specific questions were raised as to lack of or inefficient use of infrastructure, uncertainty concerning berths 13-14, etc.
The urgency of the situation was clearly put forward and the Minister welcomed the feedback the EU provided. The EU community sees this occasion also as a time of opportunity (new board, very committed Minister, government wide recognition of the need to accelerate delivery of results in sectors which are key to growth and poverty reduction - including transport).
Q: The EU has been financing Dar port infrastructure development to improve efficiency, how do you comment on the recent inauguration of SPM at Kurasini oil jetty?
A: EU Delegation has not financed infrastructure in the port of Dar es Salaam up to now while some EU member states are funding improvements at the Dar port via TradeMark East Africa. The EU has funded related infrastructure -- such as the Mandela road rehabilitation providing access to the port. We are currently engaging in a study on the performance of Tanzania ports and logistics chains, undertaken jointly with TradeMark EA and AfDB.
This study focuses on policy options for further port development in the country in a wider regional context (even though some priority infra projects will be also specified). Regarding SPM, this is a long awaited development and one of the key priorities, reflected also in the TPA Master Plan, aimed to enhance the efficiency of port operations.
Q: There are also reports that the EU will be financing a major Dar es Salaam port infrastructure development project?
A: As the EU programming cycle for the next National Indicative Programme for Tanzania 2014-2020 has only recently started, concrete projects to be funded within this programme have not yet been identified. Nevertheless, EU involvement in infrastructure projects of crucial importance for the port will be throughly scrutinized. However, when defining and implementing those projects, the EU will adhere to the priorities set by the Government of Tanzania and work in partnerships with other donors already active in the field of transport.
Q: International shipping liners such as Italian Ignazio Messina are struggling to convince the current management at TPA to renew their stevedoring contract which has forced the company to relocate to Mombasa in Kenya and many others are threatening to do the same because of a slow down at TPA, as major partners of the prime port, what is your view on this development?
A: European business representatives presented at the meeting a very practical case study of big investors reluctant to invest in Tanzania because of lack of infrastructure. This point has been taken very seriously by the Minister, who invited business representatives to address proposals of public-private partnership directly to the Ministry and urged the acting Director General of the TPA to take action. We welcome the open and forward looking views that the Minister expressed during our deliberations.
Q: Which parts of the port did you visit and what was your impression?
A: The first part of the visit was at the Passenger Terminal, where heads of missions witnessed the safety measures put in place for the embarkation/ debarkation processes on passenger ferries, and exchanged with the Minister on progress made with other safety regulations necessary to ensure an accident-free maritime travel in Tanzania.
The Heads of Missions, accompanied by representatives of European companies dealing with the port, then toured berths 1 to 7 of the cargo terminal. The inefficiencies still experienced by users of the port, and the important resulting losses for the Tanzanian economy, as well as the direct impact on the Tanzanian consumers were brought forward in an informal dialogue with the Minister and Tanzanian Port Authority officials.
Q: What did Dr Mwakyembe say in response?
A: The Minister assured of his willingness to put in place radical reforms to address the issue, presented the important plans to be carried out by the newly appointed TPA board, and welcomed the support of international partners to see them through.
Q: What way forward did you agree with Minister Mwakyembe?
A: EU welcomes the commitment of the Minister of Transport to take the radical measures needed for the Dar es Salaam port to increase its efficiency, and therefore its competitiveness, to the immediate benefit of the country and its region. The magnitude of the existing problems and the commitment to solve them need to be addressed openly, in a spirit of openness and collaboration with international partners. The EU stands ready to support these measures and looks forward to a constructive dialogue with the Tanzanian Port Authority.