Tanzania’s main gateway for imports and exports, Dar es Salaam Port, is realising a marked improvement in handling containers that has risen 16% by end of 2011.
This makes Dar es Salaam Port highly competitive along the East African Indian Ocean coast. It means some importers who used Mombasa, Kenya, have diverted delivery to Dar es Salaam.
Transport experts attribute the increase to improvement in the state of roads.
Although Tanzania has two railway lines that link Dar es Salaam port to landlocked countries of Uganda, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia and Malawi, their cargo transportation has been taken over by trucks.
The Dar es Salaam port last year handled 475,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) compared to 415,000TEUs of previous year – 2010.
The Dar Port Manager, Mr Cassian Ng’amilo, said last week the increase was due to increasing container berths at the port to allow for six containers ships to discharge at any given time, up from five.
“This has greatly reduced congestion,” Mr Ng’amilo said adding “the road infrastructure to Burundi and Rwanda is speeding up transportation.
It now takes between three to four days compared to seven days to reach Burundi or Rwanda by road.”
Compared to Mombasa, the Kenya Port Authority (KPA) handled 18.9% less or 552,449 tonnes of cargo for Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda and the DRC in the nine months to September last year.
As a result, the Mombasa Port relies on Uganda and South Sudan cargoes. The two countries have little choice on their logistic corridor-to grow its export cargo volumes to 3.9 million tonnes in the nine-months compared to 3.8 million tonnes in the same period last year.
The Dar port Manager said East African ports experienced congestion due to limited handling facilities, but Dar port has geographical advantage for Zambia and DRC, as well as Uganda and South Sudan- bound consignments.
“Though it is shorter in kilometres form Mombasa to Kampala, Dar is three times the distance, but stands a better chance for Uganda cargo once the road between (Mwanza and Bukoba) is completed,” Mr Ng’amilo said.
The Dar route, the official said, takes shorter period to transport cargo from Dar Port compared to Mombasa which faces congestion and prolonged transporting time of anything close to a month to Rwanda the DRC Kenyan analysts are worried that once the Dar Port reforms being implemented are completed by end of first half this year, Mombasa Kenya could lose even more business.
The Tanzania Port Authority’s Master Plan is estimated to cost between US$400 – 650 million from 2013/14 financial year.
Among other things, the Ports Master Plan seeks to expand Dar port further by constructing two new container handling berths, dredging of the entrance channel and development of a large inland cargo freight station at Kisarawe south of Dar Salaam city.
The Ports Master Plan also calls for development of new modern ports at Mwambani in Tanga targeting Uganda- bound consignments, and Mbegani in Bagamoyo, north of Dar port.