Mozambique deals blow to Malawi’s Shire-Zambezi waterway

Malawians are anxiously waiting for the results of feasibity study that is to determine whether Shire river is navigable or not with Mozambique saying giving faint hopes of adopting the report.

Malawis Transport MinisterFrancis Kasaila CMozambiques Transport Minister Carlos Mesquitta L and the Deputy Minister of Zambia Mutaba Mwali R present at the meeting - Pic by Stanley Makuti

Malawis Transport MinisterFrancis Kasaila CMozambiques Transport Minister Carlos Mesquitta L and the Deputy Minister of Zambia Mutaba Mwali R present at the meeting – Pic by Stanley Makuti

Nsanje Port officially opened in 2010, but has yet to become operational.-Photo: Kristy Siegfried/IRIN

Nsanje Port officially opened in 2010, but has yet to become operational.-Photo: Kristy Siegfried/IRIN

Transport ministers from Mozambique, Zambia and Malawi are currently meeting in Lilongwe to discuss a report on the navigability of Shire in a closed door meeting.

The report has been compiled by a German consultant but no official was available to reveal contents of the report before their meeting.

If the consultants say the river is navigable, it would be huge relief to landlocked Malawi as this will drastically cut down on transport costs and would automatically boost the ailing economy.

But Mozambique’s Transport and Communications Minister, Carlos Mesquita told reporters in Lilongwe that they are unlikely to adopt the report.

“Chances are very limited that Mozambique will adopt the report,” Mesquita said.

“We are already committing resources to other ports such as Beira ,” he added.

“Mozambique would need to spend 100 million Dollars to drench the river and deepen the waters. This is not economically viable,” he said.

The route was used by Malawi and Mozambique in the 1970s. Mawtam Limited operated a barge service transporting molasses from Chilomo in Malawi to Chinde on the coast of the Indian Ocean in Mozambique. Because of the civil war in Mozambique, this route was stopped.

According to the Government of Malawi, Glens Limited organised a survey by boat of the Lower Shire and Zambezi Rivers. The survey found the rivers still navigable all the way to the Indian Ocean port of Chinde .

Malawi Transport Minister Francis Kasaila however remains optimistic that the report will be adopted, hoping to pursued all stakeholders.

“Most likely the report will be adopted in November,” Kasaila said.

Kasaila said in Mangochi that the project remains a priority under the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) led government.

Former president Bingu wa Mutharika earmarked Nsanje as the World Inland Port and steadily developed the area for the intended port but now the ace lies isolated, dejected, rejected and absolutely abandoned.

The aim was to reduce the high costs of importing and exporting goods by road via Malawi’s commercial capital, Blantyre and the Mozambican port city of Beria – a round trip of about 1,200 kilometres.

Just before his death, Bingu wa Mutharika had an official opening ceremony of the port but the ceremony was snubbed by his Mozambican counterpart, arguing it was illegal to open a port before feasibility study results according to international laws.

As Bingu wa Mutharika presided over the official opening of the port in October 2010, flanked by former Zambian president Rupiah Banda and Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, he had to admit to the crowd gathered to witness the arrival of the first barge that the Mozambican government had called for environmental and feasibility studies before it would allow any barges to navigate the Zambezi River portion of the waterway, which flows through its territory.

The Shire-Zambezi Water Way will be financed by governments who will participate in the project, the donor community and some companies in the private sector.

The African Development Bank (AfDB) has agreed to fund the feasibility study that formed part of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the Shire-Zambezi Waterway project signed by Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia in April 2007.

Kasaila said President Peter Mutharika already made an initiative to engage private investors from the United States.

“We will engage some private companies and it is at this point when the government will float out to the public some opportunities that are available on the project,” he said.

He said an assessment on the private companies will be done to see which ones can engage on the project.

Some of the works that need to be done at the port include construction of warehouses, handling facilities and bringing in of barges.

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49 thoughts on “Mozambique deals blow to Malawi’s Shire-Zambezi waterway”

  1. vavlov says:

    This project is not viable. Go to Nsanje and see for yourself the level of siltation, which would make the port idea impossible to implement. It is simple; land degradation upland is severe, and would make dredging of silt impossibly high. How stupid can Malawi be to even imagine this project is possible?

  2. Nyapapi says:


  3. Wachamba says:

    Moshko ti ithire nkhondo basi.

  4. His Excellency the Life President Wolemekezeka Mkango Lion Chivomorezi Chisokonezo Manthakanjenjemereza says:

    Leave Mozambique alone . Let us consentrate on our development. Foolish. We have golide, mafuta, siliva, diamond ndi zina zotere. Tikumbe asiyeni a Mazambiki agalu amenewa.

  5. yuona says:

    First things first. We must improve on our relationship with Moshkor.

  6. Viyazi Tembo says:

    Dear Nyasa times,
    My name is above stated, kindly pass this message to relevant government authority mainly concerning Mozambique and Nsanje inland port.

    Personally I have had enough of excuses from Mozambique government for not granting us yes to use Zambezi river through their territory. Its now or never for them to allow us using Zambezi if they are willing to continue accessing their on transit railway line through our soil.

    Apo bii, I will use my home made bomb to destroy this railway line since it is passing right through in my back yard in Mwanza district. No joke, I mean it. Chisamakomele Galu kugunda Mbuzi……………..

  7. Nzeru zayekha anamanga dziwe la N’gona. Bingu kuba kwambiri, amaona ngati a ku Mozambique ndi mbuzi kuti azingolora ndizopusa zomwe.

  8. Mfumu ya alomwe says:

    During campaign period our President said once elected into office he will jump into a helicopter to re open the Nsanje port. That is some form of executive arrogance. You don’t stand on the podium and start bragging about things which involve foreign territories. Lero
    ndi Zimenezi.

  9. Jabulosi says:

    Something very wrong with Malawian thinking!!!! I already stated that Nsanje port is a “White Elephant.” All along Mozambique has shown no interest in this Waterway yet Malawians kahunas have been tooting the project to the extent of implementing some works without Mozambique’s blessing yet in whose territory the waterway passes and ends. Isn’t this being stupid and foolish?????
    Now the Mozambican minister honestly/frankly and loudly tells Malawians that to them this Waterway is not feasible but we still want to argue, “What will you achieve at the end?” NOTHING!!! SO WHY ARGUE?? JUST ABANDON THE PROJECT!!! PERIOD!
    Cost-benefit analysis in Mozambique has shown that it is not feasible, it has no benefit to Mozambique, it will actuary destroy their ecosystem and environment. Can Malawi force them to implement???? NO!

  10. Therere says:

    Let us all fast for this project to pass,, if accepted by our neighbours Mozambique things will change here in Malawi

  11. cristiano says:

    The mozambique tpt minister has close to 500 freightliner. Transpotes Carlos Mesquita TCM trucks that moves cargo from moz to mw so he makes a fortune there’s NO WAY his going to allow that port to open he’s a financier of the ruling moz party

  12. Chairman Wa Mulhako says:

    Where is the feasibility study report? Why are we engaging in discussions outside the feasibility study findings? The feasibility study can only give two answers, either a YES or NO. If the answer is a NO, let’s stop and move ahead.

    If we get a YES, that will be good news for everybody. We then have to consider the investment to be injected in order to complete the project and our ability to attract potential investors. Is the project attractive to investors? what commodities are we targeting to utilize this corridor considering that other experts have pointed out that capacity is not enough to move containers in the waterway? Such being the case, do we have enough non-containerized cargoes to make the waterway commercially viable? Shipping is truly economical with scale in order to achieve maximum savings, that’s why rail is preferred.

    The picture being portrayed unfortunately from the our politicians is as if, the moment the feasibility study goes in our favour, vessels will immediately start plying the route. It should be made very clear that the feasibility study is just the beginning of a series of steps to be undertaken in order to realize the objective of the project. It might even take 10 – 15 years.

    I have also noticed that Malawi does not have adequate skills in negotiations of this kind, you can easily notice from the feedback of the Mozambican Minister. Before we even have concluded this current meeting, our Minister is already talking of endorsing the project at a Victoria Falls meeting slated for November 2015. Once again we are pushing and not talking.

    Malawi needs to sit down and do a stakeholders analysis meeting and select a team of professionals well versed with international maritime laws/politics, logistics, transport, shipping, customs, importing and exporting community to brainstorm and come up with a national position and action plan, a comprehensive proposal that can be sold to the Mozambicans in terms of transit procedures, levies, operational sharing agreements and other elements so that there should be something for the Mozambicans as well for them to support the project. Otherwise, it is all Malawi/Zambia at the moment which makes them drag their feet.

  13. Sandram says:

    Truly speaking Drake I really agree with you, hopefully if Malawi could be talking as said this view of yours, Malawi citizens could never be given all those names when out of, and if we refresh back Malawi had no problem with neighbors as up to date but neighbors wish Malawi to always suffer in economically matters.
    This must be first president to president then to down levels (ministers) with facts from toppers of both sides.

  14. Nkwatibwi wokhumudwa says:

    Ha!guys mozambique is taking us as toys,,,,Bingu adanena mau kuti they want us on rail line through our country,we need them on our port in Nsanje,,,this is wat we call politics,,,it literally means a no go for nsanje port’no go for rail line simple!!!!!!!!!

  15. Viyazi Tembo says:

    Abale! Mozambicans call us doom and dumb, just imagine, I was in Maputo on Friday last week, I met one cop demanding passport I showed him, demanded driving license I did the same, he couldn’t find me a fault but still he demanded $100 bribe or jail threat, I asked my mozambican friend why I was deserving such treatment. The answer was because iam ACHIMWENE stupid and backward. Lets just join together to block their on transit railway through our territory, adziwe khonya yobwezera kuwawa………..

  16. Public Administrator says:

    What an annoying news article, Owen Khamula! It looks like you are cheering or even negatively influencing the Honorable Minister representing to throw spanners in the works? You are free to disagree with or even hate DPP, but you cannot afford such a negative attitude towards an initiative of national interest like the Shire-Zambezi Water Way. That’s no laughing matter! It is nothing short of lack of patriotism. You may not like it, but you do need it. Go to the mountain for some reflection and make a commitment to love your country.

  17. DRAKE says:

    The Shire waterway project mainly is being hindered by some Mocambiquean officials who are based in Maputo. First we need to improve our relations with the Mocambique Government, when their ministers come here they sound so arrogant and adamant showing that they are not good people. We can only improve our relations with them by having discussions at a higher level, we need the President to engange with President NyUSI on this
    the new President in Mocambique has many connections with Malawians as he was once the Big boss at CEAR Malawi Railways, he was once facilitaing transfers of Football players from Malawi Legues to Nampula leagues, he is not a stranger to Malawi and we need President Mutharika to have a meeting with him not at ministerial level. Ministers in Mocambiqu are very corrupt and not civilised and they dont understand international treaties. The Nyasa under British and Mocambique ander Portuguese signed a treaty to regulate the use of Shire and Zambezi to Chinde, this treaty was not revoked though and there is also a treaty to use Mocambique territory for the Rail and Zambezi bridge to Zimbabwe all these treaties were not revoked or cancelled only that the civil war in Mocambique disrupted our flow. Of late in the 70’s Malawi under Kamuzu had a treaty with them to construct a Railway from Liwonde to Nacala Port, therefore there is no justification for a certain Minister in Mocambique just to dismiss our requests as simple as that without consideration of the long outstanding treaties. Malawi Government through the President should evaluate the state of relations that is there between us and them, other wise they should not behave as bullies and jeopardise every move we make to help our economy. If they say they dont want Malawi to use their land for transport and communications then Malawi may think of Patronising the Northern corridor even upgrading it to Rail standard

  18. mphatso says:

    i think malawi is just too linient with these selfish mozambicans.even when you travel on their roads they just charge people unrealistically.when they fight then we jiust welcome them like that in millions.we should also charge them nicely and try other routes as well

  19. vin mongu says:

    God has laways been on our side but we have not been able to use the intellengence he has given us. We have rail for crying out loud and we do not use it but we want to opt for expensive projects. Mwanya u thought you would eat the billion. Thumbs up to God for using Mozambique to reject this waste of taxpayers. Use the money to build a pipeline to Nacala and reduce the fuel costs — what do we do ZERO! Push paperwork for the Vale built railline to start operating what do we do — sit on it! This is not minyama but pure stupidity, no wonder we are at the bottom on the SADC list of education. All top people in Ministry of Transport have Masters degrees from abroad but come back and fail to think. Kodi where are economic models to help us choose alternatives? Koma akati ma loose minutes is what you guys know. Master degrees just to write loose minutes — God does not write economic models. Maybe He should start writing economic models just for Malawians since we have dull economists!!

  20. Vladmir says:

    Its simple, lets close down the railway transporting goods from one side of moshco to the other side through Malawi

  21. Kanyimbi says:

    eeeeesh! Koma ndiye zavuta pa Nyasaland.

  22. Munyane says:

    What I don’t understand is why is Mozambique intend to operate a railway line that passes in southern part of Malawi and yet the are un willing to let Malawi operate in their part. This is why Africa will not develop—-we fail to love our neighbour.

  23. Dyetsani Njomba says:

    The moment you start secret meetings it means there is something wrong. Feasibility studies are public information. It is not a secret document. Maybe that is why Malawi is not issuing a license for the Vale railway to be operational. Trying to twist Mozambique’s arm for a hopeless project like the Nsanje slab.

  24. Timve says:

    Carlos Mesquita is the owner of TCM – (TRANSPORTES CARLOS MESQUITA ) trucks from Beira. He transports most of the goods to land locked Malawi from the port of Beira. No ways he will support this project as he cant shoot his own foot. Remember before he was appointed Minister of Transport by Nyusi, he was the Manager for Beira . Allowing this project to pass through is the last thing he can do in his life.

    1. DRAKE says:

      Can the Government of Malawi block his vehicles from operating in Malawi, corruption is what has killed African Governments. Blocking our country’s life line to protect his personal empire is not acceptable and this has to be tackled from a higher level we need to investgate
      his Transport businesses in Malawi and possbly use international investgators

  25. Emmatuwa says:

    Malawi akupita kuti abale

  26. I don’t see any issue here, if this same route was used in the 70s why NOT now when technology is advanced? I think Mozambique is just trying to be difficult here for their own reasons. Above all this is the best move initiated by the stubborn Bingu.

  27. felikie says:


  28. Mwakipiki says:

    If it will require war to operationalise this project, then I am available for the front line.

  29. Wisdom of Karonga says:

    I am surprised people are worried at Mozambique’s position regarding acceptance of the feasibility report, they are calling Mozambiquans jealous.Well, we have jealous leaders within Malawi.

    From Kamuzu Banda to Peter Mutharika, no leader has harboured intentions of connecting Malawi with Tanzania through the north by railway line which would join TAZARA.Somebody can argue that the proximity of Blantyre and Lilongwe to Nacala matters,but do you plan development just on side of the country? Lusaka is 1,941 kilometers from Dar-Salaam and yet Zambia is connected to Tanzania through TAZARA railway for serious economic purposes.My observation is that Malawian leaders are so jealous of the north such that they don’t want big infrastructure projects there.But they are wrong,opening up the north by railway to Tanzania would reap huge benefits to the whole country and not only the north.You don’t develop a country by relying on only one route and concentrating on one region with some industries.

    I would rather deal with Tanzanians than Mozambiquans.Mozambique is a country full of hateful and jealous people, no wonder they don’t hesitate to fight each other, even Malawian transporters face hurdles on their routes.

  30. Mphepo Zinai says:

    Stop day dreaming. The best and cheapest way to the ocean is railway via Nsanje through to Beira. Even Kasaila, who is an Engineer knows that.

    DPP Politicians are interested in this project because it will benefit their pockets and not that it makes engineering or transport logistics sense nor will it benefit Malawi.

    Please wake up and stop being stupid.

  31. Dwambazi says:

    Even if the feasibility study reveals that the waters are navigable but if Mozambique says no then what?

  32. Kenkkk says:

    The picture of the port shown is an old one. I was there three weeks ago, the port is all silted up and where you see water, cattle are actually grazing and maize is being grown ( kudimba). The boats you see are all cut off, they are in a pond. The shire is further away and the port will need heavy redrenching to join the river. The floaters are all submerged in mud or soil.

    Also people have started removing some of the bolts or nuts holding the anchors. Soon they will all disappear.

    It was a pathetic scene. There is no security whatsoever.

  33. chepetsani says:


  34. mcpherson mkweu says:

    I wish this program works;

  35. Ahoy says:

    Matt, u block the moza traain carrying coal through Malawi, have u considered what will happen if moza blocks all ports? Moza surrounds us 75 percent,how wud pple go to jobek etc the best we can do is persuade them not play hard ball. U need good n persuasive negotiators like atcheya not what we have in state House now

  36. let’s just go into war with them if they happen to refuse us this is very good project for us.

  37. i miss kamuzu says:

    pata phiri #5 ndiwe member. wayiwala satchet addiction, private parts business, magetsi kuyaka nthawi zina, uhule owonjeza, national airline kugulitsidwa, bank kupatsana, escom kuphya, ma polisa kupangitsa hire mfuti…..zinthu zoti sitimazidziwa nthawi ya kamuzu

  38. bantu says:

    Malawi should be proactive and use language as lleverage. Export English teachers Mozambique and train a generation English-Portuguese bi-linguals that can competently operate enterprises inside Mozambique. That will achieve social integration and economic influence. The way we live now, we are like a dumb lot yet we live right inside the mouth of Mozambique.

  39. Doko la Nsanje says:

    Iwe PATA PHIRI ukunama. APM wapita ndi anthu 15 ku USA osati anthu 115.

  40. Doko la Nsanje says:

    Kodi amalawi mudzachangamuka liti? Nkhani ya doko inayamba 2006 mpaka lero palibe chomwe chikutheka. Vuto ndi Alhomwe ndi Asena, mitundu iwiri imeneyi ndi yomwe ikutipatsa minyama pa Malawi pano. Malawi sadzatukuka chifukwa cha agalu amenewa. Doko silingatheke chifukwa pa mtsinje wa Zambezi anamangapo bridge yaikulu. Mozambique siingalole kuti iwononge bridge ya pamwamba kuti timaboti ta ku Malawi tidzidutsamo. Ku Mozambique kulibe anthu opusa ngati alhomwe ndi asena a ku Malawi. Wina akabwera ndikumabwebweta amvekere; ‘ine mukangondivotera pa 21 May, 2014 ndikukatsegulira doko’

  41. Matt says:

    We have let Mozambique run a railway line from Tete thru Malawi to the other side of their country so that they can minimise on transport costs for the transportation of their coal from Moatize, yet they play hard ball when it comes to a project that benefits Malawi. You know why? It is because they are make huge profits when they rip us off of all forex for using their port in Beira and transporting our goods on their roads. For them, the Shire-Zambezi waterway is not in their economic interest. I guess it is high time we played hard ball with them too, by allowing no train to go thru our land with their coal if they don’t allow us to use the waterway. Wat selfishness!!!!

  42. Jamax says:

    I know our collegues in Moz. are jealous with this viable in – land port, but l believe this thing will become a reality one, our GOD z the living GOD….& may he bless Malawi.

  43. Pata phiri says:

    1. Donors cut down FISP funding
    2. Kwacha depreciation worries Ecama
    3. Patients suffering as nurses refuse locum due to payment problems
    4. Govt withdraws newly recruited nurses due to lack of funds, despite only having 10, 000 nurses against 17 million people
    5. Power cuts affecting industrial works
    6. Govt stops sponsoring university students
    7. Domasi fees hiked by 12, 000%
    8. APM takes 115 delegates to USA, spending K350 million
    9. Fire guts ATM and area 18 market within 48 hours
    10. JCE abolished due to lack of funds
    11. Crime on the rise as robberies and albino abductions increase
    12. Donors still lacking trust in Malawi after cashgate
    13. Maid chops off child’s arms after boss denies pregnancy
    14. Vandals steal fence from Bingu International Conference center
    15. Statutory bodies to detach from govt: observers fear service fees will rise
    16. Escom hikes tarrifs
    17. TNM, airtel and MTL hike tarrifs by 10% despite Malawi already having world’s highest internet tarriffs
    18. Teachers stay 2 years without being employed by govt
    19. Malawi fails to give medals to foreign athletes after hosting a running competition for the first time
    20. “Dzuka Malawi” video banned on MBC
    21. Marine Vessel “Chilembwe” grounded due to lack of maintenance
    22. Worry as potholes emerging on airport runway.
    23. China bringing officials to look after parliament building, as Malawians fail to look after it.
    ….akuluakulu,Malawi pa 3rd world inadutsa. Pitala watitengera patali kwabasi.

    Apapa tafika pa 4th world ndithu. Zikomo Kumpando.

    1. DRAKE says:

      What has this got to do with this Topic?

  44. Truck says:

    That Shire Zambezi can work from where Shire joins Zambezi up to the Ocean but because you can block the water and make its high level for the Ship to pass but the other part of Shire there is no enough water for the Ship to pass but also the other side of Business you must tell Mozambique Counterpart that the Shire Zambezi water way is going to be used only for Malawi not other Countries otherwise Mozambique wont allow to lose Truck Business which is existing between Zimbabwe and Zambia.

  45. jk says:

    Countries can be jealousy and it is what mozambique is doing! Sad!

  46. Ndea says:

    What a vision. I wish this could work its a very good development.

  47. Nthawi yafika yoti anthufe tibanduke mudziko lino. Mwina ndilowere chaku Mozambique

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