The Mtwara port in the south of Tanzania, famously for exporting tons of cashew nuts, is now crowded with vessels from Europe grappling to load coal to Europe to counter the prevailing energy crisis.
Traditionally, Tanzania exports coal to its neighbouring countries in East Africa. Sending it further afield was out of the question, as it required trucking the material more than 600km from mines southwest to Mtwara, the nearest Indian Ocean port.
The energy crisis in Europe has changed it all. Prices for thermal coal have risen to record levels due to the war, which has led to many European countries losing access to vital supplies of natural gas and coal from their top provider Russia.
Tanzania is now flocked with buyers from across Europe to the hinterlands of Tanzania to purchase coal. Mtwara has seen 13 vessels load up with coal since November last year, when it launched its first-ever coal shipment, according to port officials.
The latest MV Miss Simona, a bulk carrier with 34,529-tonnes capacity, docked last week, loaded up and sailed off to France.
Since the end of June, 57 cargo orders – requests for available vessels – to ship Tanzania coal have been seen on the spot freight market compared with just two in the same period last year, according to analysis from maritime and modified data platform shipfix.
Tanzania expects coal exports to double this year to around 696,773 tonnes, while production is expected to increase by 50% to about 1,364.707 tonnes.
According to trade data reviewed by Reuters, Tanzania-based miner Ruvuma Coal has exported at least 400,000 tons of coal via a trader to countries including the Netherlands, France and India.