Dar Port needs TRL, Tazara to avoid crash

Performance of the Dar es Salaam Port is likely to go from bad to worse unless immediate steps are taken to revive the Tazara and the central railway line to speed up haulage of cargo to Tanzania’s hinterland and neighbouring countries, stakeholders say.

The port is now operating at 90 per cent of total capacity, according to data the Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA) availed to The Citizen last week. 

The increase of trade as well as the ongoing port expansion plans could see it surpassing its capacity in the near future, but the sluggish hauling of the cargo to various destinations is one of the biggest threats to its  competitiveness, transporters and experts say.

The statistics further show that the general cargo terminal handled 3.4 million tonnes last year against the designed annual capacity of 3.1 million tonnes, equivalent to 109.7 per cent capacity utilisation. Between January and September this year, the terminal has already handled 3.5 million tonnes.

The oil terminal handled 3.7 million tonnes last year against the annual capacity of 6 million tonnes (61.7 per cent). Between January and September the terminal has handled 2.8 million tonnes.

But last week, a newly installed offshore single-point mooring (SPM) started serving the port. The SPM and pipeline system, installed by an American firm, Leighton Offshore, can accommodate vessels up to 150,000 dwt carrying either crude oil or diesel. The first tanker used the facility last week.

The Tanzania International Container Terminal Services (Ticts) is operating at 90 per cent capacity, while activities at the other container terminal operated by TPA are increasing at the rate of 110 per cent annually.

Dar Port is a leading gateway for goods to and from landlocked countries of East and Central Africa.

It is the most strategically located to serve Zambia, Malawi, DR Congo, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda, but has often failed to fend off competition from  Mombasa Port, despite problems of congestion and bureaucracy facing the Kenyan competitor.

But, according to TPA, Dar Port handles only about 30 per cent of the total transit cargo traffic, while the rest go to competitors due to poor railways infrastructure that connects the port to the hinterland.

Experts say Tanzania needs at least 2.4 billion US dollars (about 3.8tr/-) to revamp the central railway line alone.

Relying on road transport is Tanzania’s undoing as far as competitiveness in transit trade is concerned. This is because this type of transport is overly expensive in the long run, subject to countless ‘non-trade barriers’, all of which have contributed to skyrocketing cost of living.

A report released last week by Transparency International (TI) indicates that Tanzanian transport companies each pay almost 13,000 US dollars (21m/-) a month in bribes as they move cargo from the Dar Port to various destinations.
That is the highest bribe money transporters say they pay in East Africa.

Those in Kenya say they pay an average of 6,715 US dollars a month each in bribes to revenue authorities, police officers and customs officials, TI reveals.

Railways transport is cheaper and goods transported by trains are free of police roadblocks and other non-trade barriers that road haulers are subjected to, experts say.

TPA says the Tanzania Railway Limited (TRL) and the Tanzania Zambia Railway (Tazara), the main railway lines connected to the Dar Port, handled only 1.7 per cent of the total cargo that passes at the facility from January to September this year.

Between January and September, a total of 2,867,482 consignments of cargo were cleared from the port in which 2,817,393 freights equivalent to 98.3 per cent was transported by roads and the remaining 50,089 consignments being transported by railways.

“This size of cargo eats into the life span of the roads which in turn forces the government to spend a lot of money on road repair while the same money could have be used in other development projects,” said the ministry of Transport director of policy and planning, Gabriel Midire recently.

The Tanzania Shipping Association Chairman Emmanuel Mallya told The Citizen over the weekend that despite though the port has been increasing, the railways and roads infrastructure connecting to the port have remained the same as they were 20 years ago.

 “Any business is about competition, traders choose the most favorable port to use. So if Dar Port will not overcome the challenges it faces, there is the probability of losing many customers in the future.”

The TPA report indicates that the ship turnaround time has increased from 3.1 days per ship in 2005 to 7.3 days. This problem is caused by poor clearance, mainly as a result of poor infrastructure connecting to the port, leading to more costs to shippers.

According to Mr Mallya, a ship pays 20,000 US dollars daily whenever it docks at the port.  “When the dwell time is higher it means we are forced to spend a lot of money, which in turn traders seek on how to compensate the extra cost … the consumer will be supposed to pay higher for purchasing goods,” noted Mr Mallya.

The government says it cannot, on its own, improve the railways transport system without the participation of the private sector, the deputy minister for transport Charles Tibeza saida recently at the Third East and Central Africa Roads and Rail Infrastructure Summit in the city.
Source: The Citizen, thecitizen.co.tz, reported in Dar es Salaam

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