By Rex Chikoko in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
Tanzania government has warned Malawi Government that it will stop the country from operating Malawi’s cargo centre if Lilongwe continues underutilising the port and not rehabilitating it to the international standard.
This was disclosed in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania when Minister of Energy Ibrahim Matola and members of Natural Resources and Climate Change Parliamentary Committee visited the cargo centre Friday.
Being a landlocked country, Malawi relies on its neighbours such as Mozambique and Tanzania for their ports.
Government resorted to using Tanzania as its offshore port; hence, it was given land by the Tanzania government to enable a private consortium – Malawi Cargo Centres Limited (MCCL) – to build tanks at Mbeya and Dar es Salaam.
Previously, government and the consortium were responsible for the maintenance and rehabilitation of the centres but, in 2018, Public Private Partnership Commission reviewed the agreement and transferred the responsibility to the conglomerate.
The consortium, under a lease agreement, charges government to use its properties.
MCCL Chief of Operations Godfrey Chipala told the Malawi delegation that the Tanzania government has written MCCL asking it to rehabilitate the facility’s pipelines to arrest pipe bursts that are resulting in oil spills into the ocean or the Malawi dry land port risks closure.
He said in the letter the Tanzania government said the cargo centre poses a threat to the port of Dar es Salaam or even the entire city as the petrol leaks, that are frequent due to the aging of the facilities, can result in catastrophe if they catch fire.
“The lifecycle of the pipes, for example, is 20 years; however, the current facility is over 32 years old. We have been experiencing frequent pipe bursts. We ask government of Malawi to rehabilitate these facilities or the government of Tanzania will be forced to stop us from operating,” he said. Instillation
MCCL Managing Director Patrick Jere said the country hardly uses the port, a thing that concerns the Tanzanian government and has since asked Malawi to take leadership in utilising the port.
At the time of the visit, the fuel tanks, with a holding capacity of 20 million litres, had 15 million litres, of which paltry two million was for Malawi while the larger part was destined for Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The warehouse for the dry cargo was full with copper from DRC and most part of the warehouses were sublet to other private companies.
Chairperson of the parliamentary committee Werani Chilenga said what was important for government is to take over the operation of the port which currently is in the hands of the private companies with 82 per cent shares and government through National Oil Company of Malawi (Nocma) holding 18 per cent.
Nocma Deputy Chief Executive Officer Helen Buluma said the proposal was on the table that the loan, about $2 million, which Nocma extended to MCCL for the rehabilitation of the fuel tanks be converted to shares so that government can start gaining ownership of the cargo centres.
Buluma said Malawi needs the tanks at the moment to be keeping buffer fuel as the commodity price is raising due to war in Ukraine.
“We are pushing to create stocks in Dar es salaam and Beira,” she said.
Matola said government was aware it was not getting the best of the facility, saying it will be embarrassing to the country if Malawi loses the facility that was donated by the Tanzanian government in the spirit of pan- Africanism.
“I ask the cargo centres to abide by the requirements of the Tanzanian government,” Matola said.
During their trip to the ports in 2017, members of the Parliamentary Committee of Natural Resources and Climate Change learnt that the fuel tanks could help save and make money for government.
For instance, the non-usage of the tanks at Mbeya contributes to high fuel cost as transporters move the commodity from Dar es Salaam to Lilongwe, a distance of about 1,500 kilometres.
Construction of the facility started in 1989 and ended in 1991.
However, it was decommissioned in 2015 to pave the way for rehabilitation works before being reopened in 2018.