THERE is only one final piece of the Karema mega port project to become fully fledged and realise it’s massive potential – the 110km road connecting the port with Katavi-Kigoma highway, say traders and transporters.
Lying invitingly on the eastern shore of the world’s longest freshwater Tanganyika Lake in Tanganyika District, 123km from Katavi town, Karema port is like a beautiful lady waiting for a proposal.
The newly-constructed cargo and passenger terminal kicked off operations in September, last year but is yet to attract sizable users and many point to unfriendly road infrastructure as the main undoing.
“It is a magnificent port and we commend the government for this project, it’s a massive investment and strategically located,” a dhow operator, Mussa Rashid told the ‘Sunday News.’
Rashid, who plies the world’s second deepest second largest freshwater lake, transporting foodstuffs including cassava, rice and maize between Kasanga, Kabwe and Kibirizi ports, said despite its elegancy and good location, Karema Port, businesses find it difficult to use the terminal because of unfriendly road which links the port to the Katavi-Kigoma highway.
He urged the government to fast-track the construction of the road to enable local and international traders to utilise the facility, which links Tanzania and land-linked countries of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Zambia.
“Once this road is constructed to tarmac level, many people will choose Karema Port as their gateway to domestic and international markets in DRC and Burundi,” he said, adding that the Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA) should do more promotion campaigns so that people become aware of the advantages of using the new container terminal.
His sentiments were echoed by Justine Mtweve, a trader in Katavi Region, who said poor road infrastructure is to blame for traders’ reluctance to use Karema Port.
“We’re really grateful to the TPA and the government for the logical decision to construct this port in Tanganyika District, it is easy and short to cross to Kalemie Port which is located on the other side of DRC, but the government should solve the road puzzle,” Mtweve urged.
Salome Bigize, who transports casava to DRC, insisted that the untarmacked road, which has many potholes and also prone to floods at some sections, remains a major stumbling block for the envisaged full swing operation of Karema Port.
“There is no question that Karema is the best port on Lake Tanganyika but poor road is the main reason why people are still not utilising it,’ she asserted.
Lake Tanganyika Ports Manager, Mr Edward Mabula told the ‘Sunday News’ that a number of traders have shown interest to use Karema Port and expressed optimism that the impending construction of the road will boost usage of the terminal.
Mr Mabula urged businesses to tap lucrative business and market opportunities created by the port, insisting government’s plans are underway to construct the Katavi-Karema road.
Karema port will also be linked with a Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) to be constructed from Mpanda town.
The SGR line will branch off at Kaliua and head to Karema Port to target large markets in the south – eastern DRC, Zambia and Burundi.
The strategic port terminal was constructed by China’s Xiamen Ongoing Construction Group at the cost of 47.9bn/-. Its construction started in October 2019.
The construction involved 22,500 square meters of heavy pavement, tides breaker, a multi-purpose 150-meters berth to accommodate up to two vessels of 75 metres in length, with 15 meters in width, dredging and deepening of the port entrance, office building, passengers lounge and a general cargo warehouse.
The port’s initial capacity is one million tonnes of cargo, however, there is room for expanding capacity up to 3 million tonnes since TPA’s area measures 66 acres.