Maputo — The amount of cargo handled by the port of Maputo in 2020 declined by 13 per cent, in comparison with the 2019 figure.
According to a Thursday press release from the Maputo Port Development Company (MPDC), 18.3 million tonnes of cargo was handled by the port in 2020, as against 21 million tonnes the previous year.
MPDC attributed the decline to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the measures taken to halt the spread of the disease, notably the closure of the borders and the first South African lockdown.
Despite the pandemic and the lockdown, there was a 33 per cent increase in the export of chrome and ferro-chrome through the port. MPDC says one positive aspect of the pandemic was that it stimulated a switch of exports of bulk chrome and ferro-chrome from road to rail transport. The proportion of these minerals moved by rail increased from 20 to 25 per cent between 2019 and 2020. The release also attributed this change to greater efficiency of the port and of the Mozambican and South African rail companies, CFM and Transnet.
Despite the decline in traffic flowing through the port, MPDC stresses that it fully supports the measures taken to contain the pandemic. "One of the main values of our company is respect for human life and we believe in caring for our workers and for our fellow countrymen, declared the MPDC Managing Director, Osorio Lucas, cited in the release.
"The battle against the pandemic can only be won, if all of us wage this struggle", Lucas added.
He stressed that, despite the decline in traffic and the financial contingency measures MPDC had to adopt, "we have maintained our commitment to invest in the expansion and rehabilitation of port infrastructure".
The investments undertaken in 2020 included the rehabilitation of quays, dredging the quays to a depth of 16 metres, and the expansion of rail capacity. These projects are in their concluding phase, and Osorio said they will be delivered in the second half of 2021.
The challenges imposed by the pandemic, he added, "have opened the path to implementing solutions of automation to improve the management of port traffic".
For 2021, MPDC is "cautiously optimistic" about a recovery. Lucas said that, despite the effects of the pandemic, "we are convinced that we shall harvest the fruits of our investment in port infrastructure and in technological solutions".