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 (about Sh3.8 trillion) 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.