The Mozambican port and rail authorities plan to invest around $3-billion in the coming few years to raise yearly throughput at the Maputo port to between 40-million and 50-million tons by 2020 and to migrate additional cargo from road to rail.
Speaking at the inauguration of the trinational Maputo Corridor Joint Operations Centre (JOC), involving the Maputo Port Development Corporation (MPDC), as well as railway operators from Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland, MPDC CEO Osorio Sales Lucas indicated that the port investment would be directed towards further dredging and the development of three new quays.
The port was recently dredged to a depth of 11 m and the new campaign would increase the port’s depth to 14 m, allowing it to handle larger cargo vessels.
A tender would be issued in the coming months to secure private dredging expertise, with Transnet’s newest dredger, the Italeni, expected to arrive in Maputo this week to conduct maintenance dredging.
In parallel, railways utility Caminhos de Ferro de Moçambique (CFM) planned to invest around $2-billion into new infrastructure and rolling stock over the same period to increase rail’s contribution to cargo flows at the port, which still receives the majority of its cargo flows from road hauliers.
CFM chairperson Dr Victor Pedro Gomes said the bulk of the proposed investment would be directed towards the purchase of new locomotives and wagons, with about $600-million to be used to upgrade and repair infrastructure.
The MPDC, which is a private concessionaire that includes South Africa’s Grindrod and DP World as leading shareholders, handled 17-million tons in 2013 and volumes were expected to rise to over 19-million tons this year.
But with only about 40% of its freight delivered by rail, MPDC and CFM had developed a common development path in a bid to align the port’s expansion with proposed rail investments.
The bulk of the volumes moving through the port were considered ‘rail friendly’, with commodities handled including magnetite, coal, chrome ore and ferrochrome, from South Africa, and iron-ore and sugar, from Swaziland.
Mozambique’s Transport and Communications Minister Gabriel Muthisse also appealed for greater cooperation between rail and port operators across Southern Africa, arguing that competitiveness, rather than narrow nationalism, should guide future investment decisions.
He argued that the most competitive regional transport solutions should be promoted and pursued so as to lower the cost of transport for regional exporters and importers. Muthisse made the case, for instance, for an increase in the export of Mozambican fruit through the Port of Durban and for more South African coal to be exported through Maputo.
He also urged other countries to follow the lead of the Maputo Corridor Port JOC, which was framed as a practical and successful example of regional integration.
In operation since 2013, the JOC, which coordinates the operations of Transnet Freight Rail, CFM, Swaziland Railway and the MPDC, has facilitated a material improvement in rail and port turnaround times.
Train dwell times fell by 24% in Komatipoort, on the South African side of the border, while waiting times at the Maputo harbour fell 57%. Magnetite exports from South Africa increased from an average of 10 trains a week to 18 trains and the turnaround time in Maputo fell 47%, from 118 hours to 62 hours.
Transnet CEO Brian Molefe said there was potential to increase efficiencies further, saying that the JOC was playing an important role in facilitating a more seamless trade experience.
The utility was working on other cross-border operational partnerships, including one along the so-called North-South Corridor with Zimbabwe, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, with a hub in Bulawayo.
Another JOC had been established in Botswana and Molefe described the cooperative model as an example of the benefits of regional integration, adding that it could have continent-wide application.