Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete

Construction is underway on the US$ 10 billion Bagamoyo port in Tanzania.

The multi-phase project – to include the port and a special economic zone – will dwarf the country’s current main port at Dar es Salaam, 75 km to the south, as well as East Africa’s current largest port in Mombasa, Kenya.

According to government officials, the first phase of Bagamoyo port will have capacity to host container vessels of up to 8,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs).

At the groundbreaking ceremony, President Jakaya Kikwete said the port’s construction would help the government realise its goal of bringing about “an industrial revolution in Tanzania”.

While phase one of the development should be completed within three years, the entire project – to include the port and economic zone, plus road and rail infrastructure – will be delivered in ten years.

With cargo volumes at Dar es Salaam expected to rise by up to 25 per cent this year, to 18 million tonnes, it is hoped that Bagamoyo will ease the burden on the port, which is already operating beyond its capacity and with limited space for expansion.

As well as handling around 95 per cent of Tanzania’s international trade, Dar es Salaam serves the landlocked nations of Malawi, Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda.

That said, the Bagamoyo project is not without its detractors; the Tanzania Shipping Agents Association (Tasaa) warned the government against building the new port, suggesting the facility would have no significant economic impact, at least for the next 20 years.

According to Tasaa officials, upgrading the port at Dar es Salaam - including dredging deeper drafts and employing improved cranes and automated systems - would adequately increase productivity in the short term, potentially making construction of the Bagamoyo port viable in the future.

Financial backing for the Bagamoyo project comes from Oman’s State General Reserve Fund and China Merchants Holdings (International), China’s largest port operator, which is expected to undertake the majority of the construction work.

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