TRADERS in the Southern Highland Zone regions are set to benefit from new business and investment opportunities presented by improved transportation networks and inauguration of newly built MV Mbeya II on Lake Nyasa last month.
Lake Nyasa hosts a total of 15 ports under the Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA) in Mbeya, Njombe and Ruvuma regions. The launching of MV Mbeya operations was the latest of continuous efforts by the government to improve water, land and air transports sought to unlock the country’s great economic potential.
The 9.1bn/- vessel, which has capacity of carrying 300 passengers and 200 tonnes of cargo is expected to address transport woes to residents along the lake’s shoreline in Mbeya, Njombe and Ruvuma regions and the neighbouring countries of Malawi and Mozambique.
MV Mbeya plies Matema port, Lupingu port, Manda, Ndumbi, Liuli and Mbambabay ports and returns to Kiwira port. According to TPA schedule, the vessel sets off on Mondays and Thursdays.
Speaking during the inauguration event, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa said he was optimistic that the ship would open up economic opportunities within the area and with neighbouring countries and called upon Tanzanians and traders from neighbouring countries to take advantage of the presence of the new vessel.
He said the government has been investing a lot of money on improving the infrastructure of ports because of their importance in contributing to the growth of the national economy. “I urge Tanzanian traders and those from our neighbours to utilise business opportunities in this shoreline of Lake Nyasa so that our countries could benefit,” he said.
“The government has constructed infrastructures for the people’s development, it has invested a lot of money for the construction of infrastructures that would bring economic benefits.” MV Mbeya II has the ability to dock at any place on the shoreline provided the depth is compatible with its requirement.
He said the government makes efforts and proper decisions of investing in key projects to bring impact to poor citizens. “We are doing this in recognition of the fact that the first priority of any government is to improve lives of its people,” he remarked. Mr Majaliwa pointed out that any port, in order to operate effectively and efficiently, it has to have better infrastructure -- roads and railways -- to connect it with the commercial cities.
For the Lake Nyasa ports, the government is aware that roads linking them are not in good shape that was why it initiated projects to build those roads. “Let me take this opportunity to commend the TPA for implementing CCM’s election manifesto and supporting government’s efforts,” he stated.
During the launch ceremony at Mbamba Bay Port in Nyasa District, Mr Majaliwa told his audience to safeguard the ship which was built by a local company of Songoro Marine.
The Deputy Minister for Works and Transport Godfrey Kasekenya said completion of the road and the launch of the MV Mbeya would boost economic activities for the citizens living in Southern Highlands and a catalyst to growth of business between Tanzania and neighbouring countries along the lake.
“As you can see the vessels are functional and enable transportation of passengers and cargo, thus boosting trade between Tanzanians and people from our neighbouring countries of Zambia, Mozambique and Malawi,” he said. The vessel trips also add value to commercial, fisheries and agricultural activities because products can reach the markets within and outside the country.
The minister further used the platform to instruct the TPA to continue to improve ports along the Lake Nyasa and all ports countrywide to make them offer services around the clock without compromising safety and security on cargo and customers. He said TPA should continue strengthening Information and Communications Technology (ICT) systems in operating the ports and providing services to customers.
He was optimistic that full utilisation of ICT systems would guarantee provision of services effectively, timely and control loopholes leading to loss of public funds. Earlier, TPA Director General, Deusdedit Kakoko told the Prime Minister that along the Lake Nyasa shoreline the authority operates 15 ports, out of which six are in Ruvuma region, the other six in Njombe and the remaining three in Mbeya region.
The authority also serves other eight minor ports; namely Lumbila, Ifungu, Nsisi, Makonde, and Lupingu located in Ludewa District as well as the ports of Lundu, Nkili, and Njambe in Nyasa District. Considering the importance of the Lake Nyasa in driving the national economy, the government through the TPA decided to build three vessels; two for carrying cargo and one for passengers.
The building works began in January, 2015. Songoro Marine was contracted to carrying out the making of the vessels with total cost of 20.1bn/-. Out of this amount, 5.5bn/- was allocated for making a cargo ship, named MV Njombe, with the capacity to carry 1,000 tonnes, and another 5.5bn/- was for building MV Ruvuma also with the capacity to carry 1,000 tonnes.
The remained 9.1bn/- was channeled to finance the project of making MV Mbeya. The construction of cargo ships, MV Njombe and MV Ruvuma, was completed in July, 2017, and were put on trial in September, the same year. So far, since launched the two ships have done 15 trips including four trial and 11 commercial trips.
On other hand, building of passenger and cargo vessel began in July, 2017, and completed in late December 2019. “Completion of the construction of the passenger and cargo vessels on Lake Nyasa would strengthen social and economic activities for communities surrounding Lake Nyasa,” Eng Kakoko said.
On other hand, the presence of those ships has reduced transport costs on passengers and increased consignment handled by the ports along the lake from 11,220 tonnes in 2019/20 to 20,000 tonnes in 2020/21.