IN the past, transportation on Lake Nyasa was risky. Not because of the lake itself, but vessels and ferries used to transport goods and passengers. The situation was affecting livelihoods of people living near the lake, both in Tanzania and neighbouring countries.
As trade and other economic activities in the regions near the lake were crippled, the country also earned less in terms of income from its ports along the Lake Nyasa. Lake Nyasa hosts a total of 15 ports under the Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA). The ports are in the regions of Mbeya, Njombe and Ruvuma, whereby Itungi port is headquarter of all those ports along the lake.
Having realised socio-economic potential of these ports to the country, the government, through the TPA, embarked on advancing transportation on the lake. The latest development was last week's launch of MV Mbeya, a vessel to carry passengers and vehicles.
Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa inaugurated operations of the newly-built MV Mbeya, and expressed hope that the ship would open up economic opportunities within the area and with neighbouring countries. He noted that the government has been investing a lot of money on improving the infrastructure of ports because of their importance in contributing to the growth of the national economy.
He called upon citizens from both Tanzania and neighbouring countries to take advantage of the presence of the MV Mbeya. "I urge Tanzanian traders and those from our neighbours to utilise business opportunities in this shoreline of Lake Nyasa so that our countries could benefit," he appealed.
He assured that the government makes great efforts and proper decisions of investing in key projects to bring impact to poor citizens. "We are doing this in recognition of the fact that the first priority of any government is to improve lives of its people," he remarked.
Mr Majaliwa pointed out that any port, in order to operate effectively and efficiently, it has to have better infrastructure -- roads and railways -- to connect it with the commercial cities. For the Lake Nyasa ports, the government is aware that roads linking them are not in good shape that was why it initiated projects to build those roads.
The MV Mbeya vessel has the capacity of carrying 300 passengers and 200 tonnes of cargo and is expected to resolve transport woes to residents along the lake's shoreline in Mbeya, Njombe and Ruvuma regions and the neighbouring countries of Malawi and Mozambique.
Mr Majaliwa noted that the vessel, worth 9.1bn/-, was a continuation of the Fifth Phase Government's efforts to improve transport infrastructure for carrying cargo and passengers. "Let me take this opportunity to commend the TPA for implementing CCM's election manifesto and supporting government's efforts," he stated.
During the launch ceremony at Mbamba Bay Port in Nyasa District, Mr Majaliwa told his audience to safeguard the ship which was built by a local company of Songoro Marine. He said citizens cannot get development without government building infrastructure such as railway, roads, and ports, and so on.
"The government has built infrastructure for the people's development; it has invested a lot of money for the construction of infrastructure that would bring economic benefits," he said.
MV Mbeya II has the ability to dock at any place on the shoreline provided the depth is compatible with its requirement. Meanwhile, Mr Majaliwa directed that there should be database for junior technicians to participate in the construction of big strategic projects such as vessels and major bridges.
The database would help in identifying the upcoming technicians for a purpose of developing them to have more skills. Deputy Minister for Works and Transport Godfrey Kasekenya said the construction of that road was to realise the dream of President John Magufuli of improving the country's infrastructure.
Mr Kasekenya noted that the completion of the road and the launch of the MV Mbeya was a saviour for economic activities for the citizens living in Southern Highlands and a catalyst to growth of business between Tanzania and neighbouring countries along the Lake Nyasa.
"As you can see the vessels are functional and enable transportation of passengers and cargo, thus boosting trade between Tanzanians and people from our neighbouring countries of Zambia, Mozambique and Malawi," he said.
The vessel trips also add value to commercial, fisheries and agricultural activities because products can reach the markets within and outside the country.
The minister further used the platform to instruct the TPA to continue to improve ports along the Lake Nyasa and all ports countrywide to make them offer services around the clock without compromising safety and security on cargo and customers.
He further wanted the TPA to continue strengthening Information and Communications Technology (ICT) systems in operating the ports and providing services to customers. He was optimistic that full utilisation of ICT systems would guarantee provision of services effectively, timely and control loopholes leading to loss of public funds.
Ealier, TPA Director General Eng Deusdedit Kakoko told the Prime Minister that along the Lake Nyasa shoreline the authority operates 15 ports, out of which six are in Ruvuma region, the other six in Njombe and the remaining three in Mbeya region. The authority also serves other eight minor ports; namely Lumbila, Ifungu, Nsisi, Makonde, and Lupingu located in Ludewa District as well as the ports of Lundu, Nkili, and Njambe in Nyasa District. Considering the importance of the Lake Nyasa in driving the national economy, the government through the TPA decided to make three vessels; two for carrying cargo and one for passengers.
The works for making the ships started in January, 2015. Songoro Marine was contracted to carrying out the making of the vessels with total cost of 20.1bn/-. Out of this amount, 5.5bn/- was allocated for making a cargo ship, named MV Njombe, with the capacity to carry 1,000 tonnes, and another 5.5bn/- was for building MV Ruvuma also with the capacity to carry 1,000 tonnes.
The remained 9.1bn/- was channeled to finance the project of making MV Mbeya. The construction of cargo ships, MV Njombe and MV Ruvuma, was completed in July, 2017, and were put on trial in September, the same year. So far, since launched the two ships have done 15 trips including four trial and 11 commercial trips.
On other hand, building of passenger and cargo vessel began in July, 2017, and completed in late December 2019. "Completion of the construction of the passenger and cargo vessels on Lake Nyasa would strengthen social and economic activities for communities surrounding the Lake Nyasa," Eng Kakoko remarked.
On other hand, the presence of those ships has reduced transport costs on passengers and increased consignment handled by the ports along the lake from 11,220 tonnes in 2019/20 to 20,000 tonnes in 2020/21.
Eng Kakoko further explained the project of building the vessels has also gone further to addressing risks as a result of passengers using unsafe and poor ferries. During construction phase, the project created jobs for residents in the area.
He said that TPA has put into action pledges contained in the CCM's election manifesto, particularly areas on transport sector, and thus supporting the government's intent to take the country to the middle income status by 2025. Meanwhile, the TPA is forging ahead in undertaking its legal mandates by adhering to directives from the Ministry of Works and Transport as well as the Board of Directors.
"We have vowed to make Tanzania's ports friendly to customers and become affordable, efficient and competitive along with provision of better services," he stated. He assured that the TPA has prioritized the matter of empowering human resources, proper use of the ICTs, modern infrastructures; strong security and engagement of stakeholders in every step taken to increase the authority's efficiency.
"These priorities have proven to be catalyst for ongoing bigger changes in provision of our services countrywide, thus making the authority as key source of revenues to the country and employments to Tanzanians," he noted.
Tanzania's ports have been gateway for national and international trades; they have been dependable not only for Tanzania but also neighboring neighboring countries.
"Let me assure you that nowadays performance of our ports has tremendously improved, our services are offered at high efficiency. Let's use our ports for economic growth," Eng Kakoko emphasized