Local importers and exporters using Dar es Salaam port have complained of thefts at sea port in which they have lost millions of dollars. However, Eng Deusdedit Kakoko (pictured right), the director general Tanzania Ports Authority, says all that is in the past. Business Times’ Peterson Tumwebaze caught up with him in Kigali last week to discuss efforts geared at addressing the challenges faced by Rwandan traders who use Dar port, particularly ensuring security at the port, as well as the strategies being put in place to eliminate non-tariff barriers (NTBs) along the Central Corridor and enhance trade between Rwanda and Tanzania.
Rwandan exporters and importers using Dar es Salaam have complained about thefts at the port; what are you doing to address these challenges?
Safety and security in the port area is guaranteed by TPA through its own mechanism and its agents, including inland container depots (ICDs), the Container Terminal Operator (TICTS). We have tightened security by installing a state-of-the-art integrated security system (ISS) which includes fixing CCTV cameras at various points around the port.
More so, the Tanzania Railways and the truck operators along the Central Corridor give priority to cargo safety and security. The port exercises zero tolerance to any malpractice, be it among port employees, those of TICTS, or others. I wish, therefore, to assure customers in Rwanda, and around the world, that theft at the port premises is now history.
Delays at the port are costing Rwandan traders a lot of money. How are you addressing this problem?
We have interacted with the Rwandan business community and informed them of various measures that have been taken to improve efficiency at the port of Dar es Salaam and the Central Corridor, generally. We, for example, now operate 24/7 at the port to serve customers with great efficiency and diligence.
We are now encouraging traders to make use of this service by making pre-arrival vessel declaration and timely processing of documents. Our target is to be able to have goods cleared within 24 hours to reduce the cost of doing business.
Many of the port users say it’s hard to access your e-payment system; what are you doing improve the system?
We introduced the e-payment system, where customers can now receive invoices and pay all port charges electronically. The objective is to continue improving the system to ensure efficiency. Being able to leverage ICT to ease the payment process will greatly reduce the amount of time it takes to effect payments.
I want to assure customers that the few remaining challenges are being addressed through introduction of ERP system, which will be supported by the newly-introduced terminal operating system (TOS). We will endeavour to undertake our role in co-ordinating stakeholders, including the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA), Tanzania International Container Terminal Services (TICTS), Tanzania Shipping Agency Association, Tanzania Freight Forwarders Association, and the Tanzania Truck Owners Association.
We understand the concerns that were raised regarding VAT, work permits, and registration of Rwandan clearing and forwarding agents in Tanzania, as well as delays associated with the documentation procedures, clearance process, problems in change of status, and delays in manifest approvals at the port.
The Central Corridor is still characterised by many non-tariff barriers (NTBs) that continue to hurt business. What steps are you taking to eliminate NTBs?
The Government of the United Republic of Tanzania has reduced a number of checkpoints from more than 20 to only the three checkpoints to facilitate flow of cargo between Dar and Kigali. This has tremendously improved the transit time from Dar es Salaam to Rusumo, which now takes three days, down from the previous seven days.
Any update on the standard gauge railway?
We are currently constructing a standard gauge railway system from Dar es Salaam port to Kigali. However, before that, we will mprove the Isaka Dry Port to further facilitate trade between Rwanda and Tanzania. With the rail and the development of the dry port at Isaka, we are confident we shall be able to enhance clearance and movement for Rwanda bound cargo from Dar es Salaam port, and in turn realise the economies of scale.
You recently announced the opening of a liaison office in Kigali…
We found it imperative that we meet the business community who use the port of Dar es Salaam to listen, learn, and be on hand to provide feedback for us to be able to improve services for customers in Rwanda.
Our visit to Rwanda last week supports what the Presidents of the two countries are doing to strengthen the relationship between Rwanda and Tanzania.
We have decided to open a liaison office in Kigali as a sign of commitment to improve business environment for clients, especially for Rwanda.
The liaison office will be a one-stop-centre, where customers will access information, such as status of their cargo, applicable port charges, payments through the electronic payment system (EPS), and we will also attend to any queries.