AT around 11am, a curious crowd surrounds a 40-feet container at Dar es Salaam port. It is a place where containers, both imported and those for export are stuffed. Looking at the 15-member crowd, one would assume that something wrong had happened to the container.
But, the truth is, nothing wrong had happened. It was about preventing the wrong, that is theft, to happen. The container is opened. Each team member closely looks into it.
The container carries a cargo of modern televisions covered with boxes. Using special tools, some of the people start bringing the boxes out of the container one after the other. Some members of the team count and assess each box coming out of the container.
They note down after counting. The members of the team include representatives from Dar es Salaam Port, officials from the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA), and other stakeholders. After counting and investigating the cargo, the porters carefully bring the cargo back to the container.
Then comes a person, an agent for consignee (owner of the cargo), seals the container and the crowd now disperses. Chief Security Officer of the Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA), Mr Fikiri Musiba, describes the scenario as second inspection stage which includes physical verification.
This comes after the first stage when the cargo is scanned using the scanners at the port. With this thorough verification, Mr Musiba assures the public that the importers and exporters using Dar es Salaam Port have their cargo safe at all time, and the port guarantees the consumers of the safety of their health. He says the port has elaborate systems for verifying and protecting imported cargo and those for export.
The installed systems meant to guarantee safety for the cargo and the consumers. The port security chief further elaborates that the Dar es Salaam Port, which is the main sea gateway to and from Tanzania, ensures that everyone who enters or leaves the port is checked by security personnel at the gates.
The security officers also carefully check the vehicles, questioning drivers over the purpose of entering the port area and whether they have permits. It usually takes some minutes before the security officers are satisfied and allow the driver to proceed.
“We also make documents verification to establish whether a person carries right documents for intended activity within the port,” he says. About checking the people at the gates, the officers use the scanners. The cargos are also scanned. The Dar es Salaam port uses modern scanners to scan containers and establish the kind of the cargo inside before opening it.
“It’s due to importance safety and security of cargo through the port that our government decided to purchase the new scanners, we now have six operating scanners,” he explains.
In 2016, the President John Magufuli issued a two-month ultimatum to the TPA to purchase four cargo scanners to be installed at the port. His directive came after he had visited the port and discovered that only two out of four scanning machines were functioning, thus creating loopholes for tax evasion by importers through false ad under declaration of goods.
The inspection using the scanners involves different government institutions and authorities such as the TRA, TPA, and other institutions responsible for safety and security and other stakeholders including owner of a cargo under inspection who is represented by a clearing agent.
Presence of representatives from various parts is meant to work as a team so that each part could be accountable for any fault emerging on its part and take measures. “When a containerized cargo passes through the scanner, every representative looks at a picture on the screen and compares what is seen in the picture and that on the documents,” he notes.
After this stage, then the containerized cargo proceed for the physical verification. This is different for bulk cargo; they are not scanned but only physically verified. The physical verification is conducted after scanning in order to be satisfied whether what was in the documents was exact in the container.
Both processes are crucial for proving that the imported goods are safe as per the country’s laws and regulations. Since the representatives of the government’s regulatory authorities also present during the verification process, it helps controlling substandard goods that would pose health risks to the consumers.
The regulatory authorities for controlling quality of goods include Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority (TFDA), Fair Competition Commission (FCC) and others. The inspection enables them to identify different items contained in the container apart from what had been declared in the documents.
“It happens that the importer declares less cargo in the document than what carried in the container,” he says. Sometimes, the inspection enables them spot illegal items or things not good for human consumption.
“If, for instance, we notice that the container carries more than what is declared in the documents, the TRA makes reassessment of the cargo and issues another tax bill. If the goods are substandard the responsible authority also takes measures,” he explains.
He therefore assures the customers the security at the port is intense and no cargo is lost, adding that with assistance of the CCTV cameras everything is monitored. Mr Musiba encourages importers and exporters to continue using the Dar es Salaam Port because security has been highly improved.
However, he cautions the customers to avoid cheating when declaring their cargos in the documents because nothing would pass through unverified. Some of the port stakeholders remark that situation is better comparing to the past. Secretary General of the Tanzania Freight Forwarders Association (TAFFA), Mr Tony Swai hails the security and safety improvement at the port, the issue of theft is something of the past.
“Nowadays there is no theft. There are great changes after the port installed more cameras and scanners following President John Magufuli’s directive two years ago,” Mr Swai notes in an interview with the ‘Daily News’. He says the situation has built trust among their customers who import and export their cargo through the Dar es Salaam port.