5 Major Ports in Tanzania

The United Republic of Tanzania lies in the Great Lakes region of East Africa. It is bordered by the Indian Ocean on its eastern coastline which is dotted with the three major seaports of the country namely Dar Es Salaam, Tanga and the port of Mtwara which handle all the international maritime trade of the country. The biggest trade partners of Tanzania include India, UAE, Saudi Arabia, China and Switzerland.

Tanzania also has many inland ports and waterways managed by the country’s port authority. Lake Victoria is the biggest lake in Africa, covering the territories of Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. Around 20 ports are located along the shore of the great lake including Tanzanian ports of Mwanza, Kemondo, and Bukobo. Situated in the Kigoma region is the world’s second-oldest freshwater lake called Tanganyika, which houses 15 small port facilities including Kigoma port and Kasanga. The main ports on Lake Nyasa are the Mbamba harbour and Itungi port which is a cargo terminal.

Agriculture is the dominant sector employing the majority of the population while Tanzania’s industrial base rests on small-scale manufacturing, mining and quarrying. The country has tremendous potential for growth but suffers from corruption, poverty and a lack of modern infrastructure. Nonetheless, its advantageous favourable position allows it to earn significant revenues from foreign trade.

Let us have a look at the 5 major ports of Tanzania, their characteristics, limitations, and handling capacities.

1. Port of Dar es Salaam

Port of Dar es Salaam
Image for representation purpose only

Dar es Salaam port is the fourth biggest facility on Africa’s Indian Ocean coast and also the busiest port of Tanzania, handling more than 90 per cent of the country’s international maritime trade. It also serves the hinterland and landlocked countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Uganda, Zambia, Rwanda and Zimbabwe. It is directly connected to the East and Central African nations, the Middle East and the Far East, Australia, Europe and America.

It has a natural, well-sheltered harbour while the port compound is rectangular, surrounded on the east by the rail terminal. The city falls in a fertile zone where crops like tea, coffee, tobacco, oilseeds, cotton, sisal and cashew nuts are grown in abundance and exported from Dar es Salaam port along with metals like copper. On the other hand, the main imports include automobiles, fertilisers, cement, iron and steel products, foodstuff, machinery and crude oil.

The port is designed to handle more than 10 million tonnes of cargo annually including approximately 4 million tonnes of dry general cargo, 6 million tonnes of liquid bulk and 1 million tonnes of containers.

Port Quays and Terminals
The port has a total quay length of around 2650 metres spread across eleven deepwater berths and four terminals.

General Cargo Terminal
This terminal has 7 berths covering 1479 m for handling breakbulk, Roro and dry cargoes. It also contains numerous transit sheds spanning 64,400 sq m and a 200,450 m2 open storage area for storing loose cargo and port equipment.

Container Terminal
Berths 8-11 are part of the port’s container handling facility operated by a private enterprise called the Tanzania International Container Terminal Services Limited. It has a total berthing line of 540 m, over 200 reefer connections and a container depot capable of handling 14,000 TEUs.

Grain Terminal
A fully automated facility with a mechanised grain conveyor belt system, it is the most modern port terminal operating at its optimum capacity. It has 5-grain silos with a storage capacity of 30,000 metric tonnes. More than 2000 tonnes of grains are handled every day. It is also equipped with fumigation and temperature control systems.

Oil Terminal
The port has two oil terminals, a 150,000 tonne Single Point Mooring and a Kurasini Oil jetty. The SPM is an offshore tanker berth that handles only crude oil and refined oil. Oil tankers weighing up to 150,000 DWT can be moored here. It is linked to refineries in Dar es Salaam, Ndola and Zambia through floating hoses and underwater pipelines.

Kurasini oil Jetty consists of two berths that specialise in handling refined oil products with a pumping capacity of 800 tonnes per hour. The first pier can accommodate 45,000 DWT tankers while only 5000 DWT vessels can berth at the second oil pier.

2. Port of Tanga

Port of Tanga
Image for representation purpose only

The Tanga port is located on the northern coast of Tanzania near the border of Kenya. Known as the longest-serving facility of the East African region, Tanga is the second biggest port in the country having two shallow berths. A lighterage port, it also has a multipurpose jetty and 12 anchorage berths for sea-going vessels and is linked to Dar es Salaam port through a 350-kilometre highway.

The port is strategically positioned to serve the northern part of the country including the region of Kilimanjaro, Manyara, the lake zone and neighbouring nations of Burundi, Rwanda and Northern Uganda.

It exports a variety of goods such as coffee, cement, tea, beans, timber, animal hides, sisal and fertilisers. Major import commodities are phosphates, chemicals, construction equipment, automobiles, ammonia, oil, sulphur, grains and cereals. The port handled approximately 700,000 tonnes in 2013-14. However, it surpassed this capacity by handling 845,000 tonnes in 2016. After port expansion, its present annual cargo capacity is 1,200,000 tonnes.

Port Specifications
The port has a wide entrance channel that can accommodate ships of any size and draught. Ships are anchored at the Tanga Bay from where cargoes are unloaded into barges and lighters. Vessel navigation is limited to daytime only and loading and discharging of cargo is completely dependent on ship cranes. It has a modern quay wall covering 380 metres and a main breakwater. The port was constructed in 1916 and was refurbished in 1954.

Storage facilities
It has four warehouses for keeping weather-sensitive cargoes, a 16,000 square metres paved container yard for storing containers and miscellaneous cargo, a 5000 m2 unpaved yard for keeping loose general cargo and multiple sheds measuring 13,000 m2.

Port Equipment
Fully functional modern equipment increases port productivity manifold. Tanga port is decked with sufficient equipment for carrying out smooth operations. It has 2 mobile cranes with a 120-tonne lifting capacity, 2 reach stackers for handling full containers weighing 40 tonnes each, 2 tugboats and 3 cargo barges, 5 pontoons, 4 terminal tractors, 12 forklifts, 27 trailers, 2 weighbridges, a roro ramp and 3 electrical grabs.

3. Port of Mtwara

Port of Mtwara
Image for representation purpose only

Mtwara is the third major deepwater port of Tanzania lying at the mouth of the Mturara River in the southern part of the country, just 20 kilometres from the border of Mozambique. Mtwara port also serves Malawi, Mozambique and Eastern Zambia.

The port mainly deals with general cargo and is known for exporting cashew nuts, cassava roots and sisal. It receives shipments of foodstuff, raw material, cement etc. Approximately, 750,000 million tonnes of cargo pass through the facility every year. The port however runs far below its designed capacity due to lack of major industries nearby. The government is planning to construct an industrial zone near the port in the coming years.

Port History
Mtwara port was built by the British between 1948 and 1954 for meeting the requirements of colonial trade originating from Africa, the Americas and Southeast Asia.
The colonial government also implemented a groundnut scheme and laid out railway lines connecting the port and Mtwara city with Nachingwea and other agriculturally productive areas.

However, the scheme proved to be a failure and the port was abandoned as other facilities were being developed. After a few years, operations began again but Mtwara port was largely underutilised due to rudimentary infrastructure and connectivity issues.

The port regained its prominence with the commencement of oil and gas exploration in the neighbouring region and the coming of the Mtwara corridor project in 2013, linking the city with other industrial and commercial centres.

Port Characteristics
It has a 380 m quay wall that can easily accommodate two cargo ships and a coastal vessel simultaneously. The main quay has been dredged to a depth of 9.85 m and can accommodate vessels with an overall length of 175 m respectively. Navigation is limited to daytime however with the introduction of new solar-powered navigational aids, nighttime navigation would be possible.

The port is open all seven days of the week and incorporates a special economic zone spanning 10 hectares. It has ample storage space including 2 transit sheds for storing 12,500 tonnes of general cargo and an open storage yard for keeping 9500 tonnes.

4. Port of Zanzibar

Port of Zanzibar
Image for representation purpose only

Zanzibar port is located on the western coast of the island of Zanzibar, just 60 kilometres from Dar Es Salaam. It has a natural harbour protected by a barrier of coral reefs. Large cargo vessels are unable to berth at the port hence their cargoes are transported through lighters. Ferry services ply from Zanzibar to Dar Es Salaam port every day.

An important cargo port, Zanzibar ships cloves and cloves oil, coconut oil, gum, copra, hides, mangrove bark, coir fibre, seaweeds and seashells. It imports construction material, hardware, tobacco, soap, packaged food etc. It can handle 165,000 tonnes of general cargo and 50,000 TEUs annually.

Port Characteristics
It has one deepwater berth measuring 240 m with an alongside depth of 10 m, used by seagoing vessels. Another quay covering 9 m is utilised by passenger boats, ferries, small cargo vessels and private fishing boats. The port does not face congestion however port operations might be affected during monsoon months.

Empty containers are stored in an open yard located 60 m from the port entrance. It covers 25,000 m2 and can store around 2000 TEUs. However, there are no storage facilities for break bulk and two sheds are utilised for keeping imported motor vehicles.

5. Port of Mwanza

Port of Mwanza
Image for representation purpose only

Mwanza is the main port facility on Lake Victoria and consists of the Mwanza North Port and the South port which have a combined cargo handling capacity of more than 1 million tonnes. Both the facilities are owned and managed by Tanzania Ports Authority while marine services are provided by the Marine Services Company Limited. The port has a 9 m deep navigation channel and two breakwaters.

North Port
This facility was designed to handle only passenger ships and small cargo vessels. It has a conventional cargo berth covering 83 m for dealing with general cargo and 2 passenger berths measuring 120 m with a depth of 11 m. It also has a 90 m Roro berth equipped with shore-based ramps for railway wagons. Presently, two RORO ferries operate in Lake Victoria. North Port has a 20,000 m2 open storage area.

South Port
Most of the trade operations are concentrated at the South port which is designed to serve large cargo ships. The port has a general cargo terminal consisting of two quays spanning 290 m with a 7.5 m water depth. It also has a maintenance quay and an oil jetty for handling petroleum and oil. It is linked to roads and railways with enhanced connectivity offered by the Linkspan, a specialised facility that allows train wagons to be ferried or loaded onto a ship. The South port has 3 storage sheds covering 60,000 m2 of ground area. It also has a terminal building and an office.

Ports in Tanzania Map


Disclaimer: The authors’ views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Marine Insight. Data and charts, if used, in the article have been sourced from available information and have not been authenticated by any statutory authority. The author and Marine Insight do not claim it to be accurate nor accept any responsibility for the same. The views constitute only the opinions and do not constitute any guidelines or recommendations on any course of action to be followed by the reader.

The article or images cannot be reproduced, copied, shared or used in any form without the permission of the author and Marine Insight. 

Do you have info to share with us ? Suggest a correction

Subscribe To Our Newsletters

By subscribing, you agree to our Privacy Policy and may receive occasional deal communications; you can unsubscribe anytime.

Web Stories

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *