7 March 2018

Mozambique: Government Considering Extending Lease On Beira Port

Maputo — The Mozambican government announced on Tuesday that it is considering a ten year extension on the lease held by the company Cornelder on the central Mozambican port of Beira - but only if Cornelder makes significant new investment in the port.

Cornelder de Mocambique is a joint venture between the Dutch company Cornelder and Mozambique's publicly-owned port and rail company, CFM. Cornelder has been operating the container and general cargo terminals in Beira since 1998. The initial lease was for 25 years, and thus expires in 2023.

The official government spokesperson, Ana Comoana, the Deputy Minister of Culture and Tourism, told reporters on Tuesday, after the weekly meeting of the Council of Ministers (Cabinet), that the government is willing to extend Cornelder's Beira lease by a further ten years, but only if the company invests in modernising and increasing the capacity of the terminals that it runs.

With such new investment, said Comoana, the government expected to see more shipping lines call at Beira, an increase in the amount of cargo handled and greater efficiency in the provision of services. It also expected to see a greater contribution to state revenue from the Beira port and transport system.

Comoana said public investments in the central region transport system must be made viable and profitable. This includes the rehabilitation and widening of the highway from Beira to Zimbabwe, and the reconstruction of the railway from Beira to the Zimbabwean border.

The terms and conditions for extending the lease will be negotiated between Cornelder and a government team headed by the Minister of Industry and Trade, Ragendra de Sousa.

When reporters asked why Sousa was heading the team rather than Transport Minister Carlos Mesquita, Comoana replied “any member is fit to represent the Mozambican government”.

But in fact it would be a serious conflict of interest if Mesquita were to represent the government in negotiations with Cornelder. Before becoming a member of the government in January 2015, Mesquita was Chief Executive Officer of Cornelder de Mocambique. When he left Cornelder, his brother, Adelino, became CEO.

These connections mean that, under the Law on Public Probity, it would be out of the question for Mesquita to take part in negotiations with Cornelder.

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