A delegation of officials from the Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA), the Tanzania Railway Authority (TRA) and the Marine services company (MSC) were in Uganda last week to seek trade opportunities with Ugandan business men.
Their visit comes at a time when Tanzania is aggressively seeking to revive trade with Uganda, which fell from 30% about ten years ago to 3%.
The delegation met with officials from the Uganda Shippers’ council, the Kampala City Traders’ Association and Eco bank to discuss trade relations.
“We are here to look for business. About ten years ago, 30% of your cargo was being channeled through Tanzania and now we want to revive this in the spirit of brotherliness. Besides, Uganda has a right to be saved from the sea by all countries that can do that, and as Tanzania we are ready and willing,” said the Tanzania Ports Authority director general, Deusdedit Kakoko during a meeting at the Kampala Sheraton Hotel.
He said re- opening the central corridor will help Uganda increase her efficiency in trade and economic development and also create competition with the Northern route through Kenya which is good for trade.
“We have been in discussions with the Ugandan government and traders since July last year, and on our part, this is just a normal marketing strategy. So far, there is traffic on the route which is increasing greatly since July, and we expect it to increase substantially after signing of the operationalizing agreement with Ugandan officials,” he said.
As proof of Tanzania’s commitment, Kakoko said government has completed works on two Inland Container Depots (ICDs) at Ruvu and Isaka about 300km from Mwanza, which will be used as an alternative to the railway and lake.
Kakoko says Ugandan bound cargo will be transported from the port of Dar – es- Salam by train at no charge to the ICDs, from where they will be picked and transported through Mutukula, making the distance shorter and cheaper compared to other routes.
Dar- es- Salaam Port is the principal port of Tanzania with a rated capacity of 4.1 million - down weight tonnage (dwt) dry cargo and 6.0 million - (dwt) bulk liquid cargo. The port serves Malawi, Zambia, DR Congo, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda.
He said the government has improved efficiency on the route by eliminating multiple weigh bridges and roadblocks, and is consolidating security to make the route as attractive as the central corridor.
Eric Hamissi, managing director of Tanzania Marine Services Company says they have also struck a new deal with Uganda that will see return of cargo transportation across lake Victoria.
According to Hamissi, the MV Kaawa and MV Umoja, which have been improved to provide quick and reliable marine transportation services between Portbel and Mwanza, will soon plough the route across Lake Victoria.
“Our plan is to pull a ship load of 22 wagons at a go from Mwanza to Port Bell, with each wagon weighing 40tonnes. This will create competition with the Northern corridor and give options to our people, which is good for the entire East Africa community,” he said
On top of this, TPA has reduced container handling costs at the port of Dar- es- Salaam, and given traders 30 free storage days before demurrage fees takes effect.
He said the ships can carry up to 800 metric tons each, making them a viable alternative for carrying bulk cargo from Tanzania to Uganda.
The two ships had halted services on the lake due to mechanical breaks, but Hamissi said they are now in perfect condition to sail the route on the largest lake in Africa.
He says this will work in tandem with the railway built from Dr- es- Salam, as wagons are loaded onto the ships and transported across the lake as block trains.
The Tanzanian government has also dedicated two train locomotives and more than 100 wagons to facilitate movement of goods between Kampala and Dar -es –Salam.
These will be part of the four locomotives and two hundred wagons needed to serve the route to Tanzania, and according to Tanzanian authorities, their government has dedicated both flat and covered wagons.
Hamissi says Tanzanian is also willing to help Uganda rehabilitate the rail line from port bell to Kampala in the shortest time possible, to effect movement of goods.
The managing director of the Uganda railways Corporation, Charles Kateeba said for the Victoria route to be effective, Uganda must rehabilitate the Portbel line.
He says rehabilitation of this rail line, two locomotives and remanufacturing five diesel electric locomotives will cost at least $10m (sh35.9b).
He says once operational, some of the locomotives will have passenger wagons and will navigate both the northern line to Pakwach and Port bell.