Zanzibar has closed its ship registration office in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, in order to control the trade in illicit goods.
The move comes barely six months after President John Magufuli ordered a ban on registration of foreign ships in Tanzania and vetting of at least 470 vessels, after reports emerged that several ships flying the country’s flag were dealing in illegal weapons and drugs.
Zanzibar’s Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Communication Dr Sira Ubwa Mamboya said that interception of foreign ships flying the Tanzanian flag with narcotics and weapons had affected maritime business on the island.
Zanzibar has previously been reported for allowing Iranian and North Korean vessels to use the Tanzanian flag to escape United Nations sanctions imposed on the two countries over their nuclear projects.
Early this year, the Greek Coast Guard impounded a ship with the Tanzanian flag carrying explosives destined for Libya.
Late last year, Dutch naval forces intercepted a ship flying a Tanzanian flag with 1.6 tonnes of cocaine on board.
The Zanzibar Maritime Authority opened the registry in Dubai after the termination of a 10-year contract with shipping agent, Philtex, which had worked for Tanzania Zanzibar International Registration of Ships since 2007.
Dubai eyeing Zanzibar
Dubai has shown interest in Zanzibar with shipbuilding companies Privinvest and Advanced Marine Transport (AMT) planning to set up on the island, in the hope of expanding their maritime business to East Africa.
AMT specialises in the manufacture of marine vessels, cargo transportation, navy equipment and ports operations.
Other African nations where it operates are South Africa, Angola, Cameroon, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Nigeria, Madagascar and Mozambique.
At a recent meeting with Zanzibar President Dr Ali Mohammed Shein, AMT chairman for Africa Jean Boustany said the company wanted Zanzibar to be its priority area in Eastern Africa for maritime investments.
President Shein said his government is open to investors who can help the island develop its marine economy and become a business hub in East Africa.
“We will create an enabling environment for local and international companies to fulfil their investment ambitions,” said President Shein.
With a population of about one million people, Zanzibar depends largely on the Indian Ocean, mostly tourism and international trade.