Tanzania Ports Authority: Creating a maritime hub in East Africa

Tanzania Ports Authority: Creating a maritime hub in East Africa

The horn of Africa is one of the busiest channels for shipping in the world, thanks to its proximity to the Middle East and their vast oil tankers. The Tanzania Port Authority (TPA) is an organization which is looking to exploit this traffic to help generate an economic transformation in Tanzania. Their ultimate aim is for Tanzania, and its ports, to become “the essential gateway for trade in East Africa.”  And no stones are being left unturned in this pursuit.

The Tanzanian Government has begun implementing the Big Results Now initiative, the goal of which is to modernize and expand the country’s ports and develop as part of moving Tanzania into a middle-income bracket by 2025. This plan uses a blueprint set out by Malaysia, a country which featured many of the same issues as Tanzania, structurally and economically, before setting off on an impressive path to prosperity.

In 2015, a delegation of Malaysian policy experts travelled to Tanzania to coach over 300 relevant Tanzanian officials on priority areas in the Tanzanian development plan. Ports, under the management of the TPA, were one such area. Clearly, the plan is being taken seriously and it provides some encouragement that other countries in the African community, like Rwanda and Nigeria, are developing similar plans.

It’s certainly not going to be easy: the Big Results Now initiative (sometimes referred to as ‘BRN’), is demanding a lot of the TPA and other stakeholders. Underpinning everything is performance – everything should be done more efficiently than it has been until now. If Tanzania wants to become a port hub in East Africa, the TPA’s ports will need to perform better than their foreign competition. Key objectives for the TPA include:

  • Improving operating procedures at all its ports, establishing a clear set of KPIs and a review of its ports’ tariffs for berth operations and cargo collection and delivery, as well as implementing 24-hour service at all ports;
  • Introducing a ‘port community system’ with an electronic single window (implemented at the end of 2015);
  • Improve the ports’ layout and access;
  • Remove and relocate unused facilities;
  • Upgrading equipment and rail links;
  • Drafting of a customer service charter to enhance professionalism and transparency;
  • Workforce enhancement, which has already included a group of marine pilots and engineers being trained in Egypt in 2015, while a second batch are currently being trained.


Tanzania’s Ports: Developing under the TPA’s supervision

Almost everybody has heard of Dar es Salaam, one of the oldest cities in the world, and now, thanks to the TPA, home to one of the world’s fastest growing sea ports. It is the dominant port in Tanzania, catering for over 95% of the cargo in the country every year. It is an extremely important hub, not only for Tanzania, but also for the many landlocked countries across east and central Africa. It is an Indian Ocean terminus of a complex logistics network stretching half way across Africa. Little wonder then, that the TPA is spending close to US$600 million to improve efficiency there.

Coming in second and third place are the ports of Tanga and Mtwara. Dar es Salaam has 11 deepwater berths, while four more are to be constructed at Mtwara. Elsewhere, a brand new harbour, costing US$11 billion, is being created as part of the newly developed port of Bagamoyo, some 70 km north of Dar es Salaam. The TPA also owns and manages various harbours, both on the Indian Ocean and on the lakes of Victoria, Tanganyika and Nyasa.

In total, the TPA has charge of 3 main sea ports, 5 smaller sea ports and 6 lake ports around Tanzania, dealing with around 550 container ships a year and close to 12 million tonnes of cargo. The TPA maintains close contact with several stakeholders so that the country’s offering is more than the sum of its parts. These include the Tanzanian Government, collaborating partners, the railways, shipping agents and customs authorities.

Recent developments in Tanzania, particularly the discovery of natural gas, have led to increased maritime activity.  This discovery has led Tanzania to begin investing in infrastructure and services for a growing gas sector. Ports like Dar es Salaam have seen huge increases in traffic as a result of the discovery, leading in turn to much more work for the TPA. They estimate that traffic has grown by 10% every year since 2005.

All of this development and modernization calls for some involvement of the private sector, both for funding and for the expertise than the TPA can glean from private companies. The good news for Tanzania is that the World Bank Doing Business Report for 2016 has scored it as the 3rd best country in Africa for starting a business, behind South Africa and Mozambique, with a score of 79.58 out of 100.

Partnerships and Suppliers

The TPA engages a broad range of suppliers, who in many cases, have become partners in the organization’s ongoing success. Examples include the Phaeros Group BVBA, a Belgian software firm focusing on ports and shipping companies, which helped developed the TPA’s proprietary software system. Marb Grant Co. MarbGrant Co., a Tanzanian construction firm, have been fundamental in developing newer parts of the port at Dar es Salaam.

Elsewhere, the TPA has also worked with renowned Dutch marine engineering consulting firm, Royal Haskoning – a company with a history of over 135 years and a presence in over 100 countries. Finally, one of the company’s suppliers Joh. Achelis & Söhne GmbH, celebrates 190 years in 2016 – a German firm, they have a solid tradition of trading with marine-related organizations like the TPA and provide solid know-how to complement the TPA’s ongoing work.


A Port with a bright future

Investment will be key to continuing the progress which the TPA has made over the past several years. World Bank funding will assist in the rehabilitation of the country’s extensive rail network, having a knock-on effect on the TPA’s progress. By 2021, Tanzania will have invested over US$14 billion in its logistics in a bid to become East Africa’s transport and cargo hub of choice.

The first train line connecting to the port of Dar es Salaam will 2,561km and stretch all the way to Burundi and Rwanda. A second line of 1,000km will bring freight southbound connecting the city of Ludewa with the Mtwara port. These projects will considerably benefit trade in the country, encourage more cargo to arrive at its ports and provide economic benefits for many years into the future for Tanzania.

The TPA is currently in the process of implementing the Ports Master Plan (2009-2028) together with the Corporate Strategic Plan (2011/12 to 2015/16), aimed at modernizing and expanding the country’s ports. Maintaining quality while the ports continue on their impressive growth path will be a challenge for the TPA, but one they seem more than capable of rising to.


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