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Beans from the Pearl

From time in memorial, Uganda has used the Northern corridor for the bulk of its exports. It is estimated that this route takes over 90% of the trade while only less than 1% of the volume goes through the Central Corridor of Dar es Salaam Port. A significant decline in the volume of exports from Uganda through this route was attributed to the liberalization of coffee transportation which was formerly exclusively transported by Uganda Railways on the Government of Uganda directive. Matters were made worse when three Ugandan ferries were grounded in 2005 leaving only MV Umoja the Tanzania Wagon Ferry to service the route.

Coffee being the leading export commodity had largely depended on the Northern Corridor; however this dependence was exacerbated by the liberalization of the coffee industry when private coffee exporters took over the industry and later the transportation of coffee. Nevertheless in the last three years, the northern corridor has had its share of problems with political instability and theft of coffee in transit accompanied by the stereotypes and perceptions that Ugandans have embraced about the central corridor.

The Tanzanian Ports Authority (TPA) moved to demystify these perceptions when it teamed up with Uganda Coffee Trade Federation (UCTF) at the 9th UCTF Coffee Breakfast Fellowship of the 25th May 2011 to make a case to the coffee fraternity. The central corridor stretches from the Port of Dar es Salaam (Dar Port) in Tanzania and extends to Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and DRC Congo and includes road, rail and water linkages between these countries.

The issues affiliated with the Dar es Salaam port in the past were endless, ranging from the condition and safety of the roads, availability of vessels, to congestion at the port among others. Over the years these challenges have been resolved. According to the Tanzanian Ports Authority all those perceptions are things of the past and the present Dar es Salaam port is something Uganda as a country should exploit.

Currently the road infrastructure has been greatly improved.  The road network is operational between Dar es Salaam and Kampala and has been used extensively to move cargo to and from the Port, with a cargo delivery time of four days to Kampala through the Morogoro, Dodoma, Singida, Kahama, Biharamulo, Bukoba and Mutukula, a distance of about 1,800km that is fully tarmac. Notably the RVR is also being improved by the Government of Tanzania and Uganda; traffic can be moved to Isaka by railway and then by road from there to Kampala, Masaka, Mbarara and other destinations. The Government of Uganda is also in the process of rehabilitating the two ferries that were grounded i.e. MV Pamba and MV Kaawa which will significantly improve the lake link between Mwanza and Port Bell. However, the question is “when will this work be completed?” so this is something to look out for in the future.

Dar port is the principal port of Tanzania with a rated capacity of 4.1 million deadweight tonnes (dwt) dry cargo and 6.0 million (dwt) bulk liquid cargo. The port is strategically positioned to serve as a convenient freight linkage not only to and from East and Central African countries but also to the Middle and Far East, Europe, Australia and America.

The Dar es Salaam port over the years has been deemed too congested for exporters, though according to TPA this is a thing of the past because they have acquired new equipment and technology aimed at increasing capacity of cargo handling at the Port. Since 2005, stakeholders have joined hands to address the multi-dimensional challenges contributing to high dwell time for containers which had risen to 29 days in October 2008. By June 2010 container dwell time had been reduced to 13 days with the ultimate goal of reducing it further to five days, ship waiting time is now 4 days down from 13 days and the ship turn-around time has also reduced from 19 days to 3 days.

To increase handling capacity, re-organization of the Port area was done, new Inland Container Depots (ICDs) were opened and this was complimented by a supportive tariff for ICDs and punitive tariff for overstayed containers within the Port among other investments. Efforts are now geared towards implementing a Single Window Port Community System (PCS) to further reduce dwell time to 5 days.

Today Dar Port has been expanded through:

  • Expansion and paving of areas of land previously existing as warehouses;
  • Allocation of additional land to Tanzania International Container Terminal Services Ltd.(TICTS)  from TPA;
  • The terminal can now hold 11,000 Twenty-feet Equivalent Unit (TEU) up from 7,500 TEUs;
  • TPA has additional areas for container storage and can hold 6,000 TEUs;
  • 6 private ICDs have opened up around the port and can hold 11,000 TEUs;
  • Punitive tariff to importers;
  • Improvements and easing of Customs Procedures;
  • PCS being developed to enable port users to access relevant information electronically;
  • Reinforcing 24 hours working system;
  • Quick cargo off-take by road.

In regard to the benefits accruing to the Central corridor, traders should look out for adequate availability of trucks owned by the Tanzania Truck Owners Association (TATOA), extended free storage of goods, advice on timing of nominated vessels for shipments, timely processing of documents, fast discharge and loading of vessels, cargo safety and security and above all unsurpassed customer care.

It was against this background that the marketing manager of Tanzania Ports Authority, Mrs. Francisca Muindi has urged the Uganda coffee fraternity to make strategic consideration of using the Central corridor not as an ‘alternative’ but as a ‘second’ route to the Port.

About Beans from the Pearl

In this blog, our correspondents report on the developments with Uganda, better known famously by the name given to it by Sir Winston Churchill – “The Pearl of Africa”