The Chairman of the CEOs roundtable, Mr Ali Mufuruki, gave the example of the stretch between Durban and Cape Town in South Africa, which has about 12 ports all meant to facilitate speedy handling of imports and exports. “The closer a port is the cheaper it becomes to do import and export business ... we should have more ports along the East African coast as the existing ones are not enough,” said Mr Mufuruki.
Mr Mufuruki also dispelled fears that Dar es Salaam port would lose business to the dollars 23 billion Lamu port in Kenya, which is currently under construction and planned to attract much larger fourth generation ships. “Dar es Salaam is not going to lose anything as it has got its own advantage,” said Mr Mufuruki, who is also the Executive Chairman of the InfoTech Investment Group.
The Minister for Transport, Mr Omar Nundu said Lamu port targets Ethiopia and South Sudan but Mwambani, near Tanga will serve Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries. “We have the potential to serve more countries than Lamu port and our preparations are going on smoothly,” Mr Nundu said.
The minister said the railway link from Tanga to Musoma and construction of new ports on Lake Victoria at Musoma and Aruba, Uganda are progressing well. The Secretary General of the East African Community (EAC) Dr Richard Sezibera said starting December this year EAC will adopt the single window clearance at entry points to expedite the processing of transit goods within the region.
“Cargo bound for landlocked EAC member states will no longer be treated as transit goods,” Ambassador Sezibera said. The Tanzania Shipping Agents Association (TASAA) Chairman, Mr Emmanuel Mallya, said whichever comes first between Lamu and Mwambani would automatically be the hub of East African freight cargo, leaving the others to serve as mere feeder ports.
“The main advantage of this hub, which needs to be developed, is that the cost of transport will come down drastically as shipping lines will be able to deploy the largest possible vessels to minimised the cost per unit,” Mr Mallya said. The TASAA Chairman said the crucial point is that the market size in East, Central and Southern Africa (apart from South Africa) could only accommodate one such transhipment port. Tanzania is bordered by 10 landlocked countries, which is an advantage against Kenya.
The Dow Elef International Director of Operations, Marijani Elinaza, said it’s true that ports complement each other but if a ship docks at Mombasa, Dar loses wharf, handling, storage and removal charges. “It’s a tricky business for clearing and forwarding agents, especially when in a single customs bloc,” Mr Elinaza said.
“We will lose a lot of business if all consignments are delivered through Lamu,” he added. Despite the fact that Mwambani is the best choice for transhipment port due to its proximity and connectivity to the hinterland, the pace of development is going at snail’s speed. “Mwambani is still an idea. There is nothing much,” Dar es Salaam University Lecturer, Dr Haji Semboja, said, adding; “Kenyans are ahead of us.”
So far, Tanzania and Uganda are planning a 2.7 billion US dollars joint venture to develop a new railway line and two ports on Lake Victoria to cope with increased trade from the East African hinterland. Out of the planned investment, 1.9 billion US dollars is for the railway, 695.5 million US dollars for the Mwambani port and 72.6 million US dollars for the development of the Musoma port.
The transhipment ports need land side infrastructure --depots, warehousing, rail sidings and road connection to hinterland plus housing Export Processing Zones (EPZ) and Special Economic Zones (SEZ).