16 February 2012

Mozambique: Completion Work on Sena Line to Start in February

Maputo — Work to conclude the reconstruction of the Sena railway line in central Mozambique will begin this month, according to Marta Mapilele, the chief executive officer of the Mozambican ports and rail company, CFM.

Cited in Thursday's issue of the independent daily "O Pais", Mapilele said the work would cost 44-45 million US dollars, and should be completed within six months.

The Sena line runs from the port of Beira to the Moatize coal basin in the western province of Tete, with a branch running to the sugar town of Marromeu on the Zambezi. It was thoroughly sabotaged by the apartheid-backed Renamo rebels during the war of destabilisation, and was supposed to be rebuilt by the Indian consortium RICON, which, in 2004, was granted the contract to run the entire Beira rail system.

But RICON continually failed to meet deadlines, and CFM found that the work it did was shoddy. So the government terminated the contract with RICON, and CFM took back control of the Beira rail system in December 2011.

When the refurbishment is complete, the Sena line will have the capacity to transport up to 6.6 million tonnes of cargo a year. This figure is also the current handling capacity of the coal terminal in Beira port.

Further upgrading of the line, which could be carried out by mid-2013, could raise its capacity to 12 million tonnes a year.

"Studies should be undertaken to ascertain what interventions should be made along the line to increase its transport capacity, in the first phase, to 12 million tonnes a year, and later to 18 million tonnes a year", said Mapilele. This would also depend on the capacity of the new coal terminal under construction in the port.

Although there is much talk of Mozambican coal exports reaching 80 million, or even 100 million, tonnes a year in the medium term, at the moment only one mine, run by the Brazilian company Vale, is exporting significant amounts of coal. It will be joined later this year by Rio Tinto.

According to Mapilele, the Vale and Rio Tinto production plans presented to CFM envisage a need to transport, up until next year, five million tonnes of coal - which is less than the installed capacity of the Sena line.

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