Ground handling firms want Zanzibar Airport tender to be floated afresh

What you need to know:

  • But having an operating licence alone is not enough, and the company is required to apply for a concession to operate at a particular airport and an open tender be floated for all potential investors to bid for.

Dar es Salaam. Local ground handlers have appealed to the Zanzibar government to rethink its decision to award a Dubai firm the tender to offer ground handling services and management of Terminal 3 at Abeid Amani Karume International Airport.

The appeal, which was made during separate interviews with The Citizen, came a few days after the Zanzibar government said due procedure was followed in awarding the tender to the Dubai National Air Travel Agency (Dnata).

In his monthly address, President Hussein Mwinyi, stated categorically that local companies lacked the capacity to deliver the services Zanzibar desired at the airport’s newly built Terminal 3.

However, ground handling firms urged the Zanzibar government to announce an international competitive tender lest the business suffers a devastating blow.

Allowing Dnata to operate in Zanzibar “with exclusive rights and without due procedure being followed” would take the industry back to the era of monopoly in the business.

Swissport Tanzania was the sole ground handler in the country from 1985 to 2005 when the government decided to allow competition in the industry.

Since Dnata entered into a contract with the Zanzibar Airports Authority (ZAA) for the provision of services last November, local ground handlers, politicians and activists have been up in arms, saying civil aviation laws and regulations have been violated.

The Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) responded by directing the company to register locally and transfer 35 percent of its shares to Tanzanians.

Dnata complied, but things got complicated with the establishment of Dnata Zanzibar.

But having an operating licence alone is not enough, and the company is required to apply for a concession to operate at a particular airport and an open tender be floated for all potential investors to bid for.

Despite claims that the company has not signed the concession agreement, The Citizen has seen brochures showing that Dnata Zanzibar has listed several services at Terminal 3.

Swissport Tanzania chief executive Mrisho Yassin said ZAA should announce an international open tender in line with the TCAA Ground Handling Services Regulations.

“This is nothing short of monopolisation, which is anti-competition. We have laws that must be adhered to by all players in the industry,” Mr Yassin said.

Nas-Dar Airco head of corporate affairs and government relations Evans Mlelwa said protecting Dnata makes a mockery of liberalising ground handling services.

Going by the TCAA board of directors’ decision on liberalisation of Ground Handling Services (Decision No.1 of 2022), concessions shall not be granted on the basis of any form of favouritism or exclusivity at an airport and its terminals.

Mr Mlelwa said if the decision was not reviewed, it would discourage investment in the sector on the premise that what happened in Zanzibar could happen somewhere else in Tanzania.

Without mentioning Dnata, Celebi Tanzania Aviation Services Limited board director Gaudence Temu said exclusive rights denied other operators business opportunities, as well as the right of choice in terms of prices and quality among customers.

“Exclusivity disrupts market equilibrium, and promotes inefficiency,” he said.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, an official from Zanzibar Aviation Services and Travel Limited (ZAT) said that even if a tender had been floated as claimed by the government, they did not have to bid because they have a concession agreement that runs until 2030.

Last week an official of the opposition party ACT-Wazalendo, Mr Ismail Jussa, said the government’s claims of lack of capacity among local operators were baseless.

“This claim should have come from airlines, TCAA, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) or IATA (the International Air Transport Association),” he said.

Activists have also weighed in, with Ms Fatma Karume tweeting that the issue was one of checks and balances.

She accused the relevant authorities of ignoring the law.

Efforts to reach the ZAA and TCAA for comment failed yesterday after phone calls were not picked up. There was also no reply to text messages.