Saturday, May 7, 2011

In Dar – 29th April 2011

Breakfast at the Tanzanite Hotel is an unvarying fare. And so is the smiling service.  The hotel does not have a regular restaurant. But they manage to rustle up breakfast every morning, which consists of cornflakes, cold milk, doughnuts, bread, apples, fruit juice, coffee and eggs in any form that you would want them as long as your order is omlette!! Normally I have four slices of white bread toast, butter and marmalade with a double egg omlette. This morning was no different.
Omar was in attendance immediately after breakfast.  Having worked in the Port sector for five years I wished to visit the DAR port.  Irfan and Omar managed to get appointments with the Container Terminal Manager and the Port Operations Manager.  The Ports of Dar, Tanga and Mtwara, along with the river ports, come under the Tanzania Ports Authority.  Tanga is a lighterage port and Mtwara is a seasonal port, which assumes a lot of importance during the cashew season.  Cashew is grown near the Mozambique border area of Tanzania andis better served by Mtwara port, from where cashew containers used to be received in Cochin during the season.  With the possible exploitation of minerals and ore in the southern part of Tanzania, bordering Malawi and Congo, I feel that the Mtwara port will assume a lot of importance in the years to come.  There is no rail connectivity to Mtwara; the road connectivity also leaves a lot to be desired.
The Dar port is in the ‘centre of the city’, so to speak.  The presence of Omar ensured that we go in to the Port without any entrance pass. The Dar port dates back to 1867 and presently has 11 berths and an oil jetty over 2600 metres of quay length.  Berths 8 to 11 are operated by Hutchinson on a 25 year concession agreement with the TPA.  330,000 TEUs are handled by Hutchinson.  The CA was amended in 2008 to exclude the non-compete clause as Hutchinson was unable to handle additional volumes due to lack of additional ground slots.  The non-availability of CFSs in and around the Port has increased dwell time of imports in the Port.  The overall dwell time is in excess of 15 days.  Presently, the TPA uses two of its seven general cargo berths for handling container vessels with an annual throughput of 80,000 TEUs. The general cargo berths handle foodgrains, fertilizer and ro-ro vessels.  Additional investments are underway to augment the container handling capacity of the Port.  The Port administration is very receptive to ideas for business and process changes.  The new wagons imported by TAZARA for transportation of containers were at the Port.  The Port handles traffic of TAZARA and TRC on two different gauges.
While I was in the Port it rained heavily and humidity increased.  From the Port I walked with Omar to the St Joseph’s cathedral.  I was drenched in sweat and the shirt clung to an out of shape ‘single pack’.  On the way are the terminals that operate ferries and speedboats to Zanzibar.  I wished I could go.  But there is no time now; perhaps on the next visit.  The St Joseph’s Cathedral was built between 1897 and 1902.  It is one of the oldest in DAR.  The adoration chapel was full of devotees.  The next halt was at the Kilmanjaro Kempinski Hotel to get a first hand update of the Tanzanite stone.  The stone is only mined from an exclusive area called Mererani near the foothills of the Kilimanjaro.  The color of the stone ranges from deep blue (AAA grading) to light blue (B grading).  The exclusivity and the limited area keep the price of the stone high – a one carat stone is sold for as high as $850.  The high rate and the non-availability of smaller stones kept me away from closing a deal for a ‘take away’.
Lunch was at the Chef’s Corner, not very far from the Tanzanite Hotel.  The restaurant had turned on the sound of the TV to ‘announce’ the Royal Wedding.  I thought I ordered a chicken dish, but what landed up was a fish fry!!  However, I enjoyed the meal with a couple of chappatis and chips.  A visit in the evening to the Kariakoo market was an experience.  This is reputedly the cheapest market in Tanzania.  Goods from China are available at bargain prices.  Bags, clothes, belts, shoes, hankies, jeans, undergarments, and such like are vended on the streets.  You name it and it is there. The place can be overwhelming for the number of people that throng the streets.  Lack of proper lighting is a challenge and the condition of the roads is bad.  It is best to be careful about your belongings as the surging crowds could relieve you of many of your valuables. It is also a market for Mitumbe – second hand goods (literally, ‘dead man’s clothing’).  I bought a few DVDs of African music as souvenir. 
Dinner was at Mamboz – an eatery down the place from where I stay.  Akhtar, the owner, is a third generation Gujarati businessman in DAR.  He told me of the generous tips to the Police and Civil authorities that are required to keep his business going using the pavements.  The sheek kebabs, misihikaki (BBQ) and the tandoori chicken were yummy and filling.  I was tempted to sample a fish fillet served to the adjacent table.  Akhtar told me that the fish is found only in the waters of Lake Victoria.

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