Zimbabwean companies and individuals are increasingly using the Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam to import and export goods, as they seek cheaper ways to connect with the outside world.
For years, locals have been dependent on the Durban port of South Africa to move goods in particular second-hand vehicles from Japan, the United Kingdom, Singapore and other countries.
However, the trend is changing.
Regional Integration and International Co-operation minister Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga yesterday said though she could not readily give official statistics, customers were bound to follow efficient ports of enrtry.
At the weekend, a consignment of 40 buses from China destined for the country was cleared at the Dar es Salaam port.
“We have not compiled numbers yet, so I wouldn’t say with certainty, that is the trend, but the market will follow efficiency,” said Misihairabwi-Mushonga.
“It’s about how efficient and safe the port is. It’s the issue around competition and how ports make it easier for people to conduct their business. That is why we are worried about the congestion at the Beitbridge border post because the market will follow efficiency.”
Misihairabwi-Mushonga said the shift to import cars through Tanzania could be as a result of South African regulations that do not permit importers of vehicles to drive them on their roads to their respective countries.
According to regulations, importers of vehicles were required to use South African carriers to their respective countries.
On average, importers have to fork out an extra $1 000 to transport a vehicle from Durban to Beitbridge border by a carrier, while those importing through Tanzania are allowed to drive their vehicles from the port of entry.
“How does somebody get a car from Durban if they are not allowed to drive it? It means they have to use a South African carrier,” Misihairabwi-Mushonga said.
Dar es Salaam port manager Cassian Ng’amilo at the weekend told the Daily News of Tanzania that Zimbabweans were now using the port regularly.
“The port now has low handling tariffs and safety for cargo has improved,” he said. Ng’amilo said initially Zimbabweans were using the port to clear vehicles only, but were now beginning to import other commodities too.
“Zimbabweans were not serious customers, but their presence is now being felt. The number of vehicles the port has received has more than doubled from 32 862 in 2005 to 84 347 last year,” Ng’amilo said.
Amin Sambo, who cleared the consignment of 40 buses, told the same paper that the port now offered the best rates compared to Durban.
“It takes three days to drive from Dar es Salaam to Harare. We normally drive during the day for security reasons,” he said.