Recent gas discoveries in the Mtwara and Lindi regions of Tanzania have demanded the expansion and upgrade of port facilities in the area. The Mtwara Port is now set to be upgraded to cope with up to 28 million tonnes of traffic annually.
The Tanzanian government announced last year that it would invest USD 214 million towards the rehabilitation of the Mtwara port. This should upgrade the facility to meet international standards. The Government of Tanzania signed an agreement with the Japanese government to conduct the preliminary survey. 263 hectares of land have been acquired to allow the port to berth seven ships, rather than the current four. An additional 100 acres were acquired to construct a free port zone.
The Mtwara port manager announced two major steps would be taken to handle the increase in demand. First the port will be expanded. Second the port related infrastructure would be improved. USD 1.7 million will be allocated for the infrastructure development.
Construction of the deep water port at Mtwara was finished in 1954. Development of the port was accompanied by a railway track from Mtwara and Nachingwea. The railway line is now defunct following the failure of the groundnut scheme. Whilst the port continues to function, it has been underutilized until now.
The deep water quay is dredged to -9.8 metres chart datum. There are no tidal restrictions for vessels entering and leaving the harbour, but there is an enforcement length restriction of 175 metres due to the shape of the channel.
At present capacity, Mtwara port can handle 400,000 metric tonnes of imports and exports per annum. The port is mainly designed to handle conventional cargo.
Once Mtwara port is functioning at international standards it promises to provide great benefit to the Tanzanian economy. With Tanzania’s recent gas discoveries there is expected to be a significant increase in traffic along the Mtwara corridor. It will also hopefully attract commodity manufacturers who will be attracted by the Port’s strategic positioning.
The Port currently employs 180 workers. This figure is expected to rise to 320 in the next five years. Indirect employment stemming from the Port is estimated at over 8000. Furthermore, the international oil and gas companies conducting offshore activities are predicted to double their work force in the next decade.