ONE of the features that makes Dar es Salaam Port, the country's principal terminal, attract traders from all neighbouring landlocked countries -- Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda -- is its proximity compared to the rest of the ports.
Its strategic geographical location gives the terminal a competitive edge as traders from DR Congo, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda find it less time-consuming and cheap to transport goods from the port to their destinations.
Cargo haulage from Dar es Salaam Port to destinations in Malawi, Zambia and some parts of Mozambique can be facilitated by the 1,860 km Tanzania Zambia Railway (Tazara) while cargo destined for Kigoma, eastern DR Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda can be hauled by Tanzania Railway Corporation (TRC) before reaching the final points.
Of course Tanga and Mtwara ports, too, have a competitive edge depending on the destination of the cargo. For instance, it becomes advantageous in terms of cost and time for traders from some parts of Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia to import cargo through Mtwara port than other ports on the Indian Ocean coastline.
Cognizant to the proximity factor that Dar es Salaam port boasts off, efforts were made by the government after independence to fully exploit the potential brought by other water bodies such a Lake Victoria through the construction of ports that support the use of wagon ferries.
It should be remembered that after Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania attained independence, ports in East Africa came to be under the railway network administered by the defunct East African Railways and Harbours until 1977 when the first East African Community (EAC) crumbled.
To smoothen cargo transport from Dar es Salaam port to Uganda and some parts of western Kenya -- Kisumu, Mwanza South Port, Musoma Port and Kemondo Bay were built with infrastructure to support the use of wagon ferries. Wagon ferry is a ship (ferry) designed to carry railway vehicles.
With the use of the meter -gauge railway, containers were transported by train from Dar es Salaam Port to Mwanza South Port where wagons were marshaled into the wagon ferries up to either Port Bell in Uganda or Kisumu Port in Kenya.
The arrangement facilitated the transportation of containerized cargo right from Dar es Salaam Port to Uganda or Kisumu (Kenya) without requiring traders to offload it midway.
Traders in the Lake Zone may remember the good old days when their containerized cargo was transported from Dar es Salaam to Mwanza South Port before being ferried by wagon ferriers to either Musoma Port or Kemondo Bay in Kagera.
From Musoma Port or Kemondo Bay cargo was then transported to their respective destinations, considerably reducing a number of inconveniences and cost.
In 2000s things started changing, especially after the railway transport that was highly dependable started performing poorly. It was during that time when the government started investing heavily in road infrastructures, turning road transport into a favorable mode of cargo haulage though it was time consuming and expensive on the part of traders.
Road haulage has all along been detrimental to the wellbeing of road infrastructure, causing the government to dig deep in its coffers to finance rehabilitation.
When President John Magufuli assumed the presidency, one of the plans on his table was to revive railway and marine transport for the objective of, among other things, facilitating quick movement of people and cargo haulage.
It was during the Fifth Phase Government when the country witnessed mega projects such as Standard Gauge Railway ( SGR) being conceived and implemented without leaving behind the rehabilitation of meter gauge railway which was abandoned to rot in some sections.
To be able to fully exploit the benefits of the rehabilitated meter gauge railway and the much anticipated SGR, TPA has invested in the rehabilitation of Mwanza South Port, Kemondo Bay and Musoma Port among others for the major objective of extensively reviving marine transport.
According to TPA officials, the revival of the strategic ports in Mwanza (Mwanza South), Musoma ( Musoma Port) and Kagera ( Kemondo Bay) will enable the wagon ferries to ply to the terminals, further simplifying cargo haulage.
TPA in collaboration with Marine Services Company Limited (MSCL) are working together to ensure the plan is effectively implemented to tap business, especially in attracting more cargo destined to Lake Zone and the neighbouring countries.
Already MSCL has a wagon ferry that plies between Mwanza South Port and other destinations such as Port Bell in Uganda.
According to TPA officials, the terminals are potential for the country's economic growth and an economic wellbeing of both traders and residents in Lake Zone and the neighbouring areas.
During the glory days, Musoma Port, Mwanza South Port and Kemondo Bay had high business interactions with other ports such as Jinja and Port Bell in Uganda, Kisumu in Kenya and other ports on Tanzania side.
Operationally, wagons with cargo can be transported from Dar es Salaam to Mwanza by train. Upon reaching Mwanza the wagons are then marshalled into the ferry wagons up to any of the three ports where they are again marshalled into the cargo yard for offloading the consignment.
Owing to the poor performance of Tanzania Railway Corporation ( TRC), traders resorted to use trucks in hauling cargo from Dar es Salaam port to the Lake zone, making goods expensive due to rise in transportation costs.
Working under the concept of 'Creating Capacity Ahead of Demand' TPA now places itself in a better position to fully exploit the benefits of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) in cargo transportation from Dar es Salaam to the Great Lakes region.
TPA believes that when SGR becomes operational the pace of cargo haulage will further improve, attracting traders from neighbouring countries.
TPA is well equipped with an array of machinery and equipment to handle a wide range of cargo. It has a team of highly trained professionals in various fields work around the clock to ensure that cargo entering and exiting its ports is in pristine condition and on time. TPA prioritises security of customers' cargo.