EXPANSION and modernisation of ports in the country is an important and significant strategy for increased efficiency in delivery of quality services that will attract potential shippers and revenue generation.
The Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA) announced recently that it aims to increase cargo handling and efficiency by moving more containers in 2013/2014. The 2012/13 budget speech of the Ministry of Transport shows that TPA plans to handle 12.65 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) of general cargo, an increase of almost five per cent from 12.1mtpa during the preceding financial year.
The ports of Dar es Salaam, Tanga and Mtwara -- target to handle a total of 576,300 twenty foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) from 530,089 TEUs moved in 2011/12.
"The country's prime port has witnessed growth of over 10 per cent on the market share compared to year 2011 and that this year it is expected to reach 15 per cent of which transit traffic will account for over 30 per cent," said Tanzania Shipping Agents Association (TASAA) Chairman, Emmanuel Mallya.
He said during a new year's party that rapid construction of Berth 13 and 14 at Dar es Salaam port, Mbegani port in Bagamoyo, Mwambani port in Tanga and the upgrading of Mtwara port will cater for forecasted growth in southern regions to accommodate transit cargo volumes.
A total of 1,500 hectares have been set aside for the Bagamoyo port which feasibility studies indicate that the project is viable and good. The port is designed to handle third generation ships that have the capacity of carrying between 7,000 and 8,000 containers at a go but needs a berth with 14 metres deep.
He said there was need to be ahead of demand always. "You will agree with me that roads alone cannot handle such a traffic in the coming years which then pose an urgent requirement of having the country's railway system running efficiently again," he stressed.
Available statistics show that yard density at the main container terminal has improved from an average of 62 per cent in 2011 to 52 per cent by October, this year, reflecting a no terminal congestion situation. Also the overall ships' turnaround time that has been reduced from an average of 7.3 days last year to 6.4 days per ship by October.
Land and transit containers dwell time has been cut from 11.5 days to 9.7 days and 17.1 days to 14.4 days respectively. Stevedoring operations have improved from 415 tonnes per gang shift last year to 446 per gang shift by last month, while cars offloading also improved per shift from 210 units to 497 units during the same period.
In the meantime, Mr Mallya said as the neighbouring Kenya goes to the polls early next month, Dar es Salaam port stakeholders are expected to see an increased volume of cargo as more clients are reportedly relocating from Mombasa port. "Now, as we wish our Kenyan neighbours good tidings in their coming general election, we should consider Tanzanian ports more as complimentary sister East African ports rather than the conservative view of competing ports though by and large competition enhances efficiency," Mr Mallya said.
He pointed out that dynamics in ports and shipping industry in the east African geographical trading saw Dar es Salaam port over congested in 2007/8 after post election violence drove away customers from Mombasa port. "Just to mention some few dynamics, six years ago experts in port and shipping, together with their logistics partners could not fully comprehend the business spill-over effect on Dar es Salaam port in terms of cargo congestion following Kenya general elections," Mr Mallya noted.
Transport Minister, Dr Harrison Mwakyembe who is cracking down graft at TPA has already undertaken a marketing campaign targeting landlocked Burundi, DRC, Rwanda and Uganda which had abandoned Dar es Salaam port due to various reasons.
Last month, Uganda State Minister for Works and Transport, John Byabagambi, signed a memorandum of understanding with Dr Mwakyembe, guaranteeing to provide 200 wagons and two locomotives to facilitate cargo shipment from Dar port to Mutukula border post where a dry port is also being touted. Statistics show that only one per cent of Uganda's cargo was transported through Dar es Salaam port in 2011, while 99 per cent was shipped through Mombasa port in Kenya.