Time for Dar es Salaam Port to be utilised

Summary

  • In countries such as the United Arab Emirates, the main port located in Dubai contributes 30 percent of the nation’s GDP. Why can’t this be the case for Tanzania and the multiple ports we have? Something, somewhere, is not right.

The potential of the Dar es Salaam port is unquestionable. The fact that it is being underutilized is also unquestionable. Now, how do we ensure that we maximize the capacity of the port moving forward?

The recent development concerning the decision by the Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA) to part ways with the Tanzania International Container Services Limited (Ticts), which has been the main handler of containers at berths eight to 11, offers perhaps an opportunity for the government to truly reflect on the future of the port and the role it can play in building the economy.

The Dar es Salaam Port is strategically located and offers services to countries such as the DR Congo, Malawi, Zambia, Rwanda, Burundi, and Uganda. However, the amount of cargo handled, whether through direct transit or an intermediary, is nothing to celebrate. A lot more can be achieved if strategies are aligned to boost the port’s capacity. But overall, the management and other logistical issues need to be cleared first if we are to achieve the dream of being the gateway to central, eastern, and southern Africa.

The TPA strategy to boost the capacities of the Dar es Salaam, Tanga, and Mtwara ports to handle 27.5 million tonnes of cargo by the 2024/2025 financial year is commendable. However, it pales in comparison to what our competitors, such as Mombasa Port, have in the pipeline, which is almost double the cargo capacity cited by TPA.

What this means is that our ambitions can be even higher if we are resolute in our plan to improve the performance of the Dar es Salaam Port. The five-year lease agreement that Ticts had with the TPA had its positives and negatives. We need to dwell on what worked and improve on those processes. However, when it comes to what didn’t work, a careful assessment needs to be undertaken in order to ensure we do not fall back into the same pit we came from.

Some Asian and Arabic countries are doing wonders with how they handle their ports. Take Singapore as a prime example: their government has managed to build one of the most productive ports in the world. And it didn’t take a miracle for that to happen; all it requires are clear plans, the will to execute them, and a team to do so.

In countries such as the United Arab Emirates, the main port located in Dubai contributes 30 percent of the nation’s GDP. Why can’t this be the case for Tanzania and the multiple ports we have? Something, somewhere, is not right.

Now that Ticts is said to be at the exit door, what plan do we have to make Dar es Salaam Port a regional powerhouse? Are we fully prepared to put the business-as-usual mentality aside and stay laser-focused on achieving economic transformation through trade and investment? These are some of the key questions we need the government to ponder as it’s about to open a new chapter at TPA.


A mystery

The fact that Tanzania, blessed with an abundance of natural resources, including multiple waterways, has failed to take full advantage of such blessings for the benefit of the country and its people, remains one of the biggest failures to date.