The crisis ridden Air Tanzania Corporation Ltd (ATCL) is once again in trouble, in spite of having been bailed out in January with $2 million by the government. Some ATCL workers have blamed the Director of Operations and other officials for the collapse of the airline. They referred to what they described as some dubious contracts, for example, the employment of four foreign pilots at a monthly salary of $10,000 who ended up with no work and the money was lost. An aircraft was said to have been leased at $370,000 a month but it did not fly for seven months – Mwananchi.
In August 2008 the airline’s planes were barred from flying for what were described as safety reasons. In December it was banned from flying by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority because it was found not to be airworthy. This forced the airline to ground its planes, leaving the monopoly of the local routes to the successful privately-owned Precision Air and air charter companies. The main shortcomings were said to be poor inspection of aircraft and lack of pilots and aircraft engineers.
In December 2008 the government set up a seven-member task force under the chairmanship of Prof. Idris Msolo, the Vice Chancellor of the Ardhi University College, to make a critical analysis of the problems. Some of the regulations needed updating including the safety management manual, the risk management manual, the security manual and also five operational programmes including those dealing with pilot and aircrew training.
ATCL has 300 workers and three aircraft, a situation which Minister for Infrastructure Dr. Shukuru Kawambwa, described as unsatisfactory, saying that the number of workers may have to be reduced to enable the company to operate profitably.
Since June 2008 ATCL had lost about 60% of its market share on both domestic and regional routes, with routes between Dar es Salaam and Mwanza and Johannesburg plagued with cancellations – Sunday Observer.
Company Chairman Mustapha Nyanganyi blamed the government for not heeding several SOS messages sent out for financial help. He urged the government to inject something like $67 million to revive the ATCL, but other authorities were said to have estimated a need for between $300 million and $600 million.
The workers accused the managers of sloppy performance and called for their immediate removal. However, as many people pointed out, few public airlines in Africa are currently performing well. The government has entered into discussions with a Chinese investor for a possible partnership with ATCL.
President Kikwete has criticised Tanzania Railways Limited (TRL) for making crucial decisions on operations of the central line without involving the government. The railway was not the property of TRL, but of the government of Tanzania even though the RITES Company (from India) had taken over management responsibilities. He told TRL officials that they were just employees tasked to operate the railways. Kikwete explained that the government and RITES were in partnership and therefore, all decisions must be made jointly. The disputed plans included obtaining credits without involving the government, applications for more tax relief and the proposed removal of rail tracks between Tanzania and Kenya on the grounds that they were not profitable. The President said that that removal of any rail tracks would be tantamount to sabotage. He also wanted to see that all repairs of wagons were done in the TRL workshop in Morogoro and not elsewhere.