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Efforts to improve Tanga port services on top gear

Monday, 21 December 2015 | 10:00

The Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA) is moving ahead with its efforts to improve the performance of the Tanga Port, historically a traditional agricultural export handling port in the East African region.

The port has recently acquired three new barges that would, among other things, enable the port to increase its capacity to handle bulk and general cargo and reduce the cost of operations of the port.

The port is a lighterage port whereby vessels anchor off the main quay and are worked by means of lighters and pontoon that shuttle cargo between quay and stream where large ships remain anchored for loading and offloading.
According to the Tanga Port Master, Henry Africa the three new barges have a capacity to carry 3,500 tonnes of general and bulk cargo each at one time or 192 containers of 20 feet each at one time.

Speaking during a visit of the Tanga-based media personnel to the port and its facilities, Africa said that the acquisition of the barges is in accordance with the Tanzania Port Authority’s (TPA) policy of ensuring that the port is well equipped to handle imports and exports, minimise ship delays and provide efficient quick cargo delivery services.

The barges which have been purchased at a cost of USD 10 million have already started working and the Port Chief said that they would increase the efficiency of the port by reducing the number of days used for offloading and loading cargo, the amount of time the small facilities such a pontoons, lighter towing tug use to and frim the ships and the number of manpower used in cargo handling.“This means that the cost of operations of the port, would definitely be reduced,” said Africa.

Africa who led the Tanga-based journalists through a tour of new facilities and a ship which had anchored off the main quay, named MV Arvika which was offloading wheat said, for instance, offloading a ship carrying a load of 11,000 tons usually took between 10 to 11 days but with the new facilities the ship would be offloaded for only four days.

He said the improvement of the efficiency at the port would definitely have an impact in the economy of the Tanga City and the region in general as more is expected. Tanga is historically a traditional agricultural export handling port in the East African region. Major export commodities include sisal, timber, coffee, sunflower products and macadamia.

According the Port officials, the national revitalisation of the industrial sector, the port is now recording growth in the handling of imports of raw materials, machinery and machinery parts and hence the crucial need for modern, more efficient equipment.

Tanga Port has a capacity of handling 700,000 tons and 13,000 TEUs per annum, but its capacity has been enhanced over the years to cope with traffic growth by investing in modern cargo handling equipment, hard stand paving of the general cargo area to improvise for container stacking.

Cargo traffic, according to statistics released by the Port has been fairing well for the past ten years with an increase recorded at 6.1 percent annually between 2005 and 2014. He explained that cargo traffic (Imports and exports) grew from 399,516 tons in 2005 to 594,122 tons in 2014.

Statistics further indicated that imports, conventional cargo grew over four times from 88,253 tons n 2005 to 426.317 tons in 2014 while containerised cargo increased dramatically from 38,120 tons in 2005 to 182,960 tons in 2013.
However, liquid bulk cargo imports declined from 103,921 tons in 2006 to zero in 2013 and 2014. The reasons advanced for the decline, including the introduction of the bulk importation scheme by the Government.  It is obvious that petroleum imports have had a positive effect in the general cargo handling performance of the port.

Future plans for the development of the port include the envisaged construction of a new port at Mwambani Bay in the Tanga City.”Plans are still on to construct the new port and do away with problem of ships anchoring in the stream,” said Africa answering a question from the Tanga based newsmen and women.

The current port comprises of two shallow water berths with a depth of 3.0 to 4.5 meters at low and high tide respectively, permissive to dock smaller vessels in the range of GRT 134 TO 1,200. In the stream, however, the depth range is between 7 to 19 meters, thus able to receive and work deep sea vessels.

Construction of the new port would do away with the shuttling between ships and the harbour. The proposed construction of the new port at Mwambani in the south of the old Tanga Port has drawn mixed feelings since the idea was born. Fireworks have been leveled to the government over what was regarded as non-commitment to the construction.

The initial capital cost estimate (CAPEX) of the project, according to a report presented by consultants in the United Kingdom-based consulting company, United Research Service (URS) Infrastructure and Environment Corporation, Alan Stacey and Christopher Fewtrell was being estimated at US $515,514,031 with an additional US$50,669,575 for the final equipment.

The recommendations of the report asserted the critical need for construction of the new port because the existing port capacity was due to hit its maximum point  by next year 2016 if no new investments in facilities are made.

The report, arguing the for the construction of the port claimed that although the existing port capacity could be increased to accommodate short term traffic growth, it would become congested by around 2016.
The report further added that expected soda ash exports through the port from the proposed soda ash project in the Lake Natron would only be possible with exports port facilities.
A report presented to the Tanga Regional Consultative Assembly (RCC) in 2009 said the project, which part of the Grand TPA Development Strategy put  a target of the year 2018 as the date for commencement of the project, although Tanga residents are expressing reservations on the target.

The report said that the Mwambani Deep Water Port Project would handle 3.5 million tons of mixed cargo and 3.88 million 20 foot containers per year if fully implemented.

Tanga development pundits have expressed hope that the reopening of the railway line saying that its revival could attract more cargo that could lead to improved port performance with an equally improvement on the economic outlook of the City and region.

“The collapse of the rail transport has greatly affected the productivity of the port which has now to rely on Road Connectivity which is costly,” a former Chief Operations Officer of the Port, Halifa Mkwizu pointed out.

He said that although the  PortTanzania Authority has taken a number of steps to improve the performance of the port including procurement of new equipment such as One Unit Reach Stacker  for container handling, the new equipment cannot work alone without supportive infrastructure “Cheaper inland transport could help to increase the volume of cargo passing through then port,” he pointed out.
Source: The Guardian

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