Tanzanian ports: There is potential for improvement

A ship docks at a section of the Port of Dar es Salaam. PHOTO | FILE

What you need to know:

  • Embracing changes while appreciating the value of what we have will lead us towards a more prosperous future, where our ports continue to be vital arteries of socio-economic development for Tanzania.

 Of late, there has been a great public debate on Tanzania Ports. That debate allows the masses to comprehend their indispensable role in our national growth as they form a critical gateway for socio-economic development.

The impressive network of Tanzania’s ports is truly a national treasure. In Tanzania’s mainland, all ports are managed by Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA), and in Zanzibar, the authority managing ports is Zanzibar Ports Corporation (ZPC). Yes, our ports are key connectors, linking us to the global economy through a diverse system of using sea and inland waterways.

The TPA operates major seaports of Dar es Salaam, Tanga, and Mtwara, along with small ports such as Kilwa, Lindi, Mafia, Pangani, and Bagamoyo, and the lake ports on Lake Victoria, Tanganyika, and Nyasa. Imagine TPA operates 58 ports located along the lake only!

If we could count all, Tanzania is geographically unique positioned on the global map. Few countries around the globe can boast of such an extensive maritime and inland waterway infrastructure.

Our port system effectively mirrors the expansive food production landscape throughout Tanzania that is relied on by some of our neighbouring countries. TPA has been working hard to optimize and intensify its operations to ensure efficient use of our port spaces, but I think the room for improvement remains unquestionable. The public debate about the ports, in essence, the most important thing to me is about the port expansion and intensification. However, to achieve that, it has to be done in such a way that it benefits our Mother Tanzania, in the aspect of increasing trade, job creation, and overall national economic development.

Recognizing these potential benefits should inspire us to accept and adapt to change, albeit cautiously. We should employ a mixed-methods approach in studying and planning these changes, collecting quantitative and qualitative data to inform decision-making.

Understanding these complexities will form a solid foundation for future policy decisions, ultimately influencing our port management and planning in theory and practice. Embracing changes while appreciating the value of what we have will lead us towards a more prosperous future, where our ports continue to be vital arteries of socio-economic development for Tanzania.

As a nation, we need to modernize ports, and with the burgeoning public interest, it’s evident that our populace is beginning to grasp the strategic importance of our ports. However, it’s crucial to delve deeper into the heart of the matter, for it is not just about shipping cargo – our ports are a lifeline to the nation’s economic health, social welfare, and regional integration. Ports expansion must be well handled, with diligence, to avoid negative repercussions on our national sovereignty, the surrounding communities, and the environment.

Such changes necessitate strategic interventions. Critically, our approach to change must be rooted in robust research, informed policy decisions, and broad community engagement. It is vital for social considerations to play a part in shaping the future of our ports. That emphasizes the importance of public sentiment and societal impact when making decisions that affect a broad range of stakeholders.

As the national ports debate rages on, it’s clear that policymakers need to understand the social, economic, and environmental implications of policy decisions.

It calls for collecting and analysing comprehensive data, engaging with various stakeholders, and drawing on insights from different disciplines. With this multifaceted approach, we can ensure that our ports continue to serve as conduits for growth, driving Tanzania’s integration with the global economy while enhancing the well-being of our people.

The transformation of our ports should embody our nation’s spirit of resilience and innovation. We, therefore, need robust research, thoughtful planning, technological innovation, and commitment to social and environmental welfare. Our ports can continue to be a beacon of progress and prosperity for all Tanzanians.