Nacala corridor that connects Malawi, Mozambique opens

By Penelope Paliani-Kamanga

LILONGWE – Malawi’s dream to connect to the sea for a cheaper way of transporting goods came to pass on August 18 following the inauguration of the Kachasu Nkaya railway section of the US$4,9 billion Nacala Corridor project.

The launch followed the agreement for the construction of the new 20.5 tonnes axle load railway which was signed between the Malawi government and Vale Logistics Limited in 2011 through a 30-year public private partnership arrangement.

The Nacala project, which started in 2012, has been led by Brazilian mining conglomerate, Vale, and Mozambique’s state port and railway operator, CFM, with support from Mitsui of Japan.

Speaking during the event, Minister of Transport and Public Works Jappie Mhango said the new railway section will help Malawi realise its aspirations in transport and infrastructure development.

“The hallmark of government policy in the sector is to create a safe and sustainable transport system that can foster a competitive operation of commercially viable, financially sustainable and environmentally friendly services,” he said.

He said government would ensure that the railway line is maintained and rehabilitated to the required standards.

In his remarks, Mozambican Minister of Transport and Communications Carlos Mesquita said Malawi and Mozambique would enhance their economic statuses through the establishment of the corridor.

Speaking at the same function, chairperson of the board of directors of Nacala Corridor Logistics companies, Renato Torres, said the corridor would help build a thriving society, especially for countries like Malawi that did not have access to the sea.

Torres hoped to see the corridor enhance the transport of fertilizer, diesel, wheat grain and general containerized cargo with an average of 350,000 tones’ per year.

“On export side the corridor moves Malawian sugar, pigeon peas, tobacco and tea towards the international market, 100,000 tonnes per year on average, with the capacity to increase this number by 3 fold,” he said.

The Mozambican side was launched earlier in May by President Filipe Nyusi at the deep-water port of Nacala-a-Velha to  mark the formal completion of the project to develop a 912 km “integrated logistics corridor” serving northern Mozambique, southern Malawi and the Moatize coalfield.

This also encompassed the rehabilitation of existing lines and the construction of a new heavy haul railway across the southern part of Malawi.

Vale CEO Murilo Ferreira said the US$4,4bn project was the company’s largest ever investment outside its home country. Brazil’s Foreign Minister Aloysio Ferreira Nunes added that the company was “here to stay”, noting that this was the meaning of the word Nacala in the local Macua language.

As well as the railway improvements, the Nacala Corridor project includes the development of a coal export terminal at Nacala-a-Velha with a storage yard able to accommodate around one million tonnes of coal. It is expected to load about 150 ships a year.

A fleet of 85 GE Dash 9-BBW locomotives and 1 962 wagons has been procured to carry the export coal traffic as well as hauling general freight and passenger services, as part of a programme to create jobs and encourage economic growth in the region.

Vale now has a local workforce of around 2 000 Mozambican and Malawian employees, supported by more than 1 400 contractors, “significantly transforming the employability of the local labour force”.

The company is investing heavily in personnel development in Mozambique, with more than 1 000 young people having already benefited from technical training programmes.

The Moatize-Nacala railroad stretches over 900 kilometres and required an investment of US$4.1 billion, which was spent on the construction of new sections and the reconstruction of others, both in Mozambique and in the 200 kilometres in Malawi.

The two neighboring countries agreed to redevelop the corridor in 1998 because of its vast economic potential for the region. Authorities hope the easy access to a port will boost mining, agriculture and tourism in northern Mozambique and southern Malawi.

The Malawi government hopes the 900km transport link could save more than $700 million a year in transport costs.

The stretch of railway between Malawi’s economic capital Blantyre and the Mozambican port of Nacala fell into disrepair during almost 20 years of civil war in Mozambique.

Before Mozambique’s civil war, nearly one third of Malawi’s trade travelled along the Nacala corridor, but since 1984 movement slowed to a trickle and the majority of freight has been transported along the much more expensive route to the South African port of Durban 2,300km away as well as Tanzania.

The natural deep-water port of Nacala is a trans-shipment hub for landlocked countries including Malawi and Zambia and has been used to handle regional exports of fertilizer, sugar, wheat and tobacco.

August 2017
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