East African nations are strategically relinquishing the operational reins of their pivotal maritime assets to the private sector, a move driven by the imperative to enhance operational efficiency and bolster their competitiveness within the intensifying maritime industry landscape.

Tanzania has taken a definitive step in this direction by engaging the services of DP World, a renowned Dubai-based conglomerate, to assume stewardship of its Dar es Salaam port for a protracted tenure of 30 years.

Meanwhile, Kenya is earnestly contemplating the replication of this model by exploring privatisation initiatives encompassing multiple berths at both the Mombasa and Lamu ports.

Tanzania, in a commitment to reform, has consummated a contractual arrangement with DP World, an entity with a global footprint, aiming to optimise port management with emphasis on efficiency. This bilateral accord aligns their interests over the forthcoming three decades.

Conversely, Kenya’s approach to privatisation has been marked by oscillation, generating a contentious backdrop characterised by opposition fervor and local leadership.

A ship docking at the Port of Mombasa. Photo:KPA
A ship docking at the Port of Mombasa. Photo:KPA

Nevertheless, a palpable indication of the government’s inclination towards port privatisation has surfaced as the Kenya Port Authority (KPA) issues an open invitation to prospective stakeholders, expressing their interest in leasing a segment of the port infrastructure through a public-private partnership.

KPA has allocated four days this week, for potential bidders to engage in site visits encompassing the Lamu container terminal berths 1 to 3, Lamu Special Economic Zone, Mombasa Port berths 11-14, and Mombasa Port container terminal 1.

Within the precincts of Dar es Salaam’s Port, DP World has secured an agreement for the leasing of four berths out of the total twelve, notwithstanding vocal opposition from political factions.

Analysts posit that both nations are striving for the enhanced operational efficiency of their maritime assets, an aspiration they believe can be exclusively realised through the engagement of private entities.

The contemporary backdrop is one of fierce competition, as these two East African ports vie for the privilege of servicing the burgeoning cargo needs of their neighboring landlocked nations.

While the northern corridor originating from the port of Mombasa remains a pivotal transit route for cargo bound for Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi DRC and South Sudan, the central corridor emerging from the port of Dar has steadily garnered significance by handling substantial cargo volumes destined for the hinterland.

Logistics experts and industry insiders assert that the paramount criterion for shippers in their port selection is operational efficiency. In the contemporary setting, time is of the essence, with shippers prizing prompt cargo clearance and delivery as it translates into substantial cost savings, mitigating potential expenses related to cargo holding and demurrage charges.

The management at the Port of Dar asserts that their collaborative endeavor with DP World will usher in a new era of operational effectiveness and efficiency.

The strategic alliance anticipates streamlining cargo clearance processes, ultimately elevating the port’s capability to accommodate 130 vessels monthly, as opposed to the current throughput of 90.