Maputo — The China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), the contractor building the suspension bridge across the bay of Maputo, linking the centre of the city to the outlying municipal district of Katembe, on Sunday put into place the first of the 57 metallic modules that will form the deck of the bridge.
The deck weighs more than 7,000 tonnes. Each of the parts is 12 metres wide, 26 metres long and three metres thick.
Speaking at Sunday's ceremony, the Minister of Public Works, Carlos Bonete, said the deck should be assembled in 45 days, if the weather remains favourable.
"The first module is there, practically in the centre", he said. "The next stage is to assemble the other modules until we reach the extremities of the deck, where the main pillars are".
There is access to the interior of each of the modules, which will allow maintenance of the deck, without interfering in traffic moving across the bridge.
Bai Pengyu, of the CRBC, said that, after the deck is assembled, all that remains is the soldering and the application of anti-corrosion paint. He expected the bridge to be completed by the end of this year.
Asked about possible delays, Bonete said that unforeseen circumstances could happen, and could force changes in the construction calendar. He noted that it had originally been hoped that the Chinese ship carrying the deck modules would arrive in Maputo in June, but in fact it only arrived last week.
However, the main problem lies neither with the contractor, nor with the central government, but with Maputo Municipal Council. Incredibly, despite having years to prepare, the council has still not moved vendors from the informal Nwakakana street market, and they are blocking the northern access road to the bridge.
The bridge, and the associated roads, including the road from Katembe to the tourist resort of Ponta d'Ouro, on the border with the South African province of Kwazulu-Natal, are budgeted at 725 million US dollars. When complete, this will by the longest suspension bridge in sub-Saharan Africa.