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.
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.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :