Mining & Energy
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The export of coal through the central Mozambican port of Beira has declined by more than half because of competition from the new port of Nacala-a-Velha in the north of the country.
Interviewed by the independent television station STV, Jan de Vries, the chief executive office of Cornelder de Mocambique, the company that operates Beira port, said the initial forecast for 2017 was that Beira would handle five million tonnes of coal.
But the latest prediction is that only two million tonnes will be exported through Beira, entirely because the largest of the coal exporting companies, the Brazilian mining giant Vale, has switched all its exports to Nacala-a-Velha
This was to be expected. Vale had invested heavily in a new railway from the Moatize coal basin in Tete province to Nacala via southern Malawi, and in a new custom-built coal terminal at Nacala-a-Velha.
One of the main advantages of the switch is that Nacala Bay is a natural deep water harbour that does not require dredging and so can accommodate ships of any size, while Beira requires regular dredging.
“We are in a difficult situation, since Vale-Mozambique has opted for the exclusive use of the northern corridor”, said de Vries. “We just have the other two mining companies (Jindal and ICVL of India), and as a result the amount of coal handled in Beira has fallen by more than half”.
On the brighter side, the amount of containerised general cargo handled in Beira has risen from about 100,000 tonnes in 2015 to over 200,000 tonnes this year.
Emergency dredging began last Friday, and should improve the port’s performance significantly. Currently the Beira access channel is only 5.5 metres deep which limits access to ships of no more than 30,000 tonnes. With the dredging, ships of up to 60,000 tonnes will be able to berth at Beira.
Beira lies just north of the convergence of two major rivers, the Pungoe and the Buzi, which means that sediment is continually entering the harbour, and so redging too should be continual.
“We hope that with this dredging, the costs of moving ships in our port will drop and we can attract more clients and greater financial power”, said de Vries.
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