24 February 2013

Mozambique: Traffic Interrupted On Maputo-South Africa Railway

Maputo — Rail traffic on the Ressano Garcia line, which links the port of Maputo to South Africa, will be interrupted for at least six weeks following a serious accident that occurred last Monday.

Railway sources cited in Saturday’s issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias” said that the accident, involving a South African goods train, occurred in the area of Tenga.

The train derailed near a bridge, the structure of which was affected, making the circulation of trains impossible.

The Ressano Garcia line was rehabilitated between 2006 and 2009, allowing it to carry heavier trains – the maximum weight rose from 18 to 20 tonnes per axle.

20 million dollars was spent on the rehabilitation, which shortened the times taken by trains between the border and the port, and allowed larger volumes of cargo to use the line.

Mozambique’s port and rail company, CFM, has set up a commission on inquiry to establish the causes of the accidents and to present a report on the losses.

Details of the accident have not yet been published. CFM rail director Augusto Abudo declined to provide any information on the accident, on the grounds that he is a member of the commission of inquiry, and cannot make statements on the accident before the commission has finished its work.

A six week interruption is a serious blow to CFM, and particularly to Maputo port. The Ressano Garcia line is used to take South African coal and iron ore (magnetite) to the port. This accounts for 70 per cent of the total volume of cargo handled by the port.

One alternative would be to divert this mineral traffic through Swaziland. But the Goba line, from the Swazi border to Maputo is unable to handle the same volumes of traffic that were using the Ressano Garcia line.

Not only will the interruption to traffic cut the income of Maputo port, but clients which the port has won in recent years, thanks to substantial investment in new equipment, may switch back to South African ports such as Durban.

In recent months, 30 mineral trains a week have reached the port along the Ressanio Garcia line. In addition, some of the iron ore reaches Maputo by road – at a current rate of 900 trucks a week.

Meanwhile, in the centre of the country, emergency work has been under way since Thursday to repair the Sena line, between the Moatize coal basin and the port of Beira.

Torrential rains have swept away ballast and damaged small bridges on a stretch of 800 metres in Tete province.

Rail traffic was suspended on 11 February. As a result the two mining companies, Vale and Rio Tinto, who send coal to Beira on the Sena line, have been unable to comply with their export contracts and have declared “force majeure”.

Transport Minister Paulo Zucula witnessed the start of the emergency repairs, in the area of Zemira, between Sinjal and Zoa stations, in the presence of representatives of Vale and Rio Tinto. 50 workers, from CFM’s Sena Line Rehabilitation Brigade (BRLS), will work uninterruptedly on the repairs.

Zucula said he hoped the line would be reopened to traffic on Monday or Tuesday. He blamed the current drama on the botched rehabilitation of the Sena line undertaken by its former operator, the Beira Railroad Company (CCFB), in which the majority shareholder was the Indian consortium, Rites and Ircon International (RICON).

Continued failure to meet deadlines, and the shoddy work done on the Sena line led the government to rescind the contract with RICON/CCFB, and the line reverted to direct management by CFM.

BRLS director Sancho Quipico Junior said that, after the end of the current rainy season, the Sena line will benefit from other rehabilitation work, such as the opening of new storm water drainage channels.

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