Dar es Salaam Port

Trucks loaded with unsecured shipping containers often seen in Dar es Salaam and elsewhere in the country continue to pose a serious threat to road users.Precariously positioned shipping containers basically without proper balance have caused deaths to a number of people. Such containers had fallen on top of passing smaller motor vehicles or pedestrians. Residents in Dar es Salaam now call for intervention.

In recent years several accidents involving such trucks occurred in Dar es Salaam. In 1998 at Kimara Baruti a shipping container fell on the back of commuter mini-bus (Hiace). Eight people died on the spot in the flattened mini-bus. In September 2010, two unfastened containers slid forward in a truck, damaged the cabin prompting the driver to lose control of the motor vehicle and smashed into an oncoming Coaster bus killing 12 people on the spot. This happened at Kibamba on Morogoro Road.

Towards the end of last year another shipping container fell off a truck near Kimara. It killed three people on the spot including an up-coming local TV film actor, Mr Thomas Senzige. Interviewed road users spoke about the existing apprehension related to dangerous transportation of containers and some drivers even fear overtaking container loaded trucks.

“Loose containers are today referred to as “chapati-style killer,” meaning that once a container falls on a person that unfortunate person will be reduced to the size or shape of a pancake, said a motorist Aisha Omar. A Principal Transport Officer in the Ministry of Transportation, Ms Tumpe Mwaijande, concurs with the public concern with regard to carelessness in transportation of containers – a situation that has led to the deaths of several people.

“This form of transportation is a serious matter. It is totally unacceptable for transporters to ignore courted by transporting loose containers. Compliance to road safety measures is not optional. “Containers must be fastened for the safety of truck operators and other road users as well. Containers should be secured tightly in order to avoid sliding which might lead to loss of lives and destruction of property,” Mwaijande explained.

She added that the current separation of the ministry from that of works gives her office an opportunity to revisit the requisite policy on this matter and currently her office was working on the final details on conformity to road safety regulations.However, Traffic Police Commander Mohammed Mpinga, said the police have agreed with port authorities not to allow loading of any trucks which do not have container locks.

“Use of sisal ropes or uncertified wires or cables is not allowed. We have noticed the danger in transportation of containers and the Police Force has teamed up with port authorities to ensure compliance. The public can share information in order to bring defaulters to book,” Mpinga said.

Retired Judge Amiri Manento, who is also Chairman of the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance, said that the nation needs to restore the culture of abiding by established laws and regulations.”There should be serious port supervision. Inspection must be carried out at the port in order to make sure that lashing of shipping containers was certified before trucks are allowed to move out.

“Respect of laws must be inculcated in people’s minds with a view to avoiding unwanted accidents,” Justice Manento insisted.Asked why not fasten containers before embarking on a journey, Joash Minga (42), who is a truck driver with 20 years of experience said that about 12 years ago a company based at the port responsible for lashing and inspection of trucks charged 30,000/- for the service provided.

“But gradually the service appeared unnecessary as the police were less concerned with the lashing of containers. At steep slopes, sharp corners or abrupt stops, containers do slide and sometimes fall off.”A container may fall on other people’s property or human beings, who knows? Life goes on,” smiling Minga explained and drove away with an unfastened container at the back of his truck.

The Chief Executive Officer of Tanroads, Mr Patrick Mfugale, said that safety regulations should be observed and become part of life.”The society has to show concern and speak out when life is in danger especially when preventable risks are ignored. Furthermore,  concerned authorities must be able to monitor and control violation of laws.

“Personally I dislike seeing shipping containers being carried in such a manner that could result in serious accidents,” CEO Mfugale warned.A former employee with Truck Lashing and Safety Inspection Company, Hassan Mwingonji, said that containers must always be fixed to maintain balance and stability.

“Vertical belts are first attached to the container securing loops, after which horizontal belts are used to keep the cargo in place. The belt is prevented from slipping down by a binding over the load or by taping the belt using a belt holder,” Mwingonji explained.

He said that the horizontal belt mainly prevents containers from falling and sliding of the load inside containers must be prevented by securing the load to the side of the container. “There are containers without locks yet they are being carried uninterruptedly,” he wondered.

When tightening a belt in the securing of a complete load, the buckle should be placed so that there is 30-40 centimetres of free belt remaining. This end should be bound around the locking device to prevent it from opening during transport.”International container transportation regulations demand that lashing belts must be prepared and lashed to the container’s lashing points before loading and movement. The risk that horizontally loaded cargo like cylinders can move during transport is relatively high,” he explained.

By BILHAM KIMATI, Tanzania Daily News

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