Dar es Salaam. President Samia Suluhu Hassan on Saturday led Tanzanians in receiving the East African nation’s first-ever cargo plane at the Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA).
The Boeing 767-300F touched down at the JNIA around 3 PM, where it received the water cannon salute, which has become a tradition for every plane that the national carrier Air Tanzania receives.
The arrival of the freighter is expected to enable investors and businesspeople who were previously forced to export their cargo using other airlines to use the one by Air Tanzania.
Speaking shortly after the plane touched down, President Samia said the plane’s arrival resulted from Tanzanians’ prayers and hard work, urging them to keep up with the spirit.
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Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL) Managing Director Ladislaus Matindi said the newly acquired craft would significantly reduce costs for exporting cargo, mainly agricultural, fisheries and livestock products.
The plane, which can carry up to 54 tonnes of freight, has a range of 11,070 km, is fuel-efficient (90770 litres) and has a speed of 850km/h, according to Matindi’s explanation.
Matindi said ATCL’s evaluation of the company’s performance in the air cargo transportation market in the country had shown great hope and the demand for more cargo planes.
ATCL is transporting seafood from Mozambique to China at an average of eight tonnes per trip, Matindi said.
On Friday, Minister for Works and Transport Makame Mbarawa told journalists in Dar es Salaam that the cargo plane would relieve farmers and business people by cutting down costs for exports and imports of various products.
“The aircraft will commence operations immediately after registration and securing permits from the regulator,” Prof Mbarawa told a press conference.
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According to the data Mbarawa shared yesterday, Tanzania produces 24,971 tonnes of fish, meat, flowers, vegetables, and fruit products annually, supplied to India, France, Germany, Netherlands, Greece, Spain, Cyprus, Romania and Malta.
Mbarawa complained that only an average of 420 tonnes, equivalent to 1.7 per cent, of the consignment uses the country’s airports, noting that a big chunk of it was being flown through the neighbouring airports, whose operators have cargo planes.
“We have not utilised the markets to the maximum since we had no cargo aircraft and thus making our transportation costs higher than neighbouring countries,” Mr Mbarawa told reporters.
Saturday’s arrival of the cargo plane occurred against the backdrop of talks between ATCL and Kenya Airways (KQ) over a potential cargo transportation collaboration between the two companies.
According to reports, the collaboration between KQ and ATCL is expected to create commercial opportunities and meet the demands of the global market for cargo transportation, including perishable commodities.
The buying of the cargo plane was also among the items that the Controller and Auditor General (CAG) Charles Kichere mentioned in his report for the 2022/2023 financial year, where he reported some “anomaly” in acquiring the freighter.
According to CAG, the last instalment of the payment to the plane’s manufacturer was inflated, whereas instead of ATCL submitting an invoice of $37 million, it submitted an $86 million invoice.
The revelation caused an uproar among members of the public, prompting President Samia to dismiss Mr John Nzulule, the Director General of Tanzania Government Flight Agency (TGFA), to pave the way for an investigation into the matter.