TRADE within East Africa and Great Lakes Region is set to flourish in the wake of ongoing measures by Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA) to revamp and expand its terminals, according to stakeholders in the transportation sector.
The multi-billion projects, they said, will improve and expand trade between Tanzania and the neighbouring countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), with an estimated 210.4 million total population.
Marine Services Company Limited (MSCL) Chief Executive Officer Eric Hamisi said here the state-owned marine firm depends much on improved TPA’s infrastructure to exploit the growing market in the transport sector in all major lakes in the country.
MSCL, which currently operates four ships in its fleet of fifteen, including cargo ships and an oil tanker in Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganyika and Lake Tanganyika and Lake Nyasa, reinstated its operations in 2015 after years of subdued performance.
They are ML Wimbi, MT Sangara, MV Umoja and MV Clarias. As part of government’s efforts to add more ships into the MSCL fleet, two vessels- MV Victoria and MV Butiama- are currently undergoing major renovations.
The new ship to be named ‘MV Mwanza-Hapa Kazi Tu’ with the capacity to carry 1,200 passengers, 400 tonnes of cargo, 20 small vehicles and three trucks is also being constructed in Mwanza at the cost of US dollars 39million (89.7bn/-).
The vessel, which will be the largest in Great Lakes region, measures 92.6 metres in length, 17 metres width and 11.2 metres height.
It will operate on Lake Victoria waters upon completion, replacing MV Bukoba that was involved in the tragic accident in 1996.
“Sometimes MSCL and passengers have been experiencing difficulties due to unfriendly infrastructure in some docking sites in some Lakes but with the current pace of revival and expansion of some ports by TPA things will now be okay,” he said.
MSCL ships are highly dependable by traders and passengers in some countries including DR Congo, Uganda, Malawi, Kenya, Zambia, Rwanda and Burundi. A representative of GSM Tanzania Limited in the Lake Zone, Mr Mahsen Omar al Attas said the improvement of ports’ infrastructure in Dar es Salaam, Mtwara, Lindi and Tanga and in major Lakes by TPA has continued to simplify business.
Giving an example, he said the improvement of infrastructure at Mwanza South Port in Mwanza region that supports the use of wagon ferry has enabled the company to reduce time and cost of ferrying its goods from Uganda to Tanzania and vice versa.
“Instead of, let say, hiring 30 trucks to transport 1000 tonnes of iron sheet from Uganda to Mwanza, we now just load onto wagons up to Port Belly where they are transferred to the wagon ferries up to Mwanza,” Mr Attas exemplified.
He called upon other traders to switch to using trains and wagon ferries in transporting their goods if they indeed want quicker business turn- around.
Mwanza Acting Tanzania Railway Corporation (TRC) Transport Manager Lawrence Semanini admitted an increase in containers of cargo destined for Uganda, especially after revival of infrastructure at Mwanza South Port.
“For us who operate here in Mwanza office we witness an increase in containerised cargo destined for Uganda, partly because of the use of wagon ferry.
We remain thankful to TPA for its efforts in reviving ports in all major lakes,” he said. TPA has embarked on reviving and expanding almost all its terminals in all major Lakes and on the Indian Ocean shoreline.