- Govt, Vale believe the other is holding up commissioning
There is a blame game over the commissioning of the multibillion kwacha railway line from Moatize to the Indian Ocean port of Nacala in Mozambique through Malawi with Malawi Government and the developer, Vale Logistics Limited (VLL), believing the other is holding up the opening.
Malawi Government says it is waiting for the company to complete the paperwork for the licensing of the Mozambican company, Corridor Logistico Integrado de Nacala (CLN), to start operating the railway line.
On its part, VLL says government was still analysing some documents before issuing the licence.
In 2011, Ministry of Transport and Public Works entered into a concession agreement with VLL to construct and rehabilitate a 136-kilometre (km) railway line and operate a locomotive train that will be transporting 18 million tonnes of coal annually from Moatize in Tete to Nacala through Malawi.
Initially, operations of the company were scheduled to start at the beginning of 2015.
However, nine months into the year 2015, the company has not yet started operating the locomotives and the Mozambican company that applied for the licence to operate the railway line, CLN, was yet to be granted operators’ licence in Malawi.
Minister of Transport and Public Works Francis Kasaila said in an interview his ministry is yet to issue a final licence because the communication system was not fully operational, a development that pauses safety challenges.
On the licencing of CLN, the minister said the company needs to submit a number of documents to government which they (CLN) were still working on.
He said the licence would be issued upon satisfying the legal requirements, adding that teams from both sides were continually meeting to finalise the processes.
Said Kasaila: “All in all, it is not us [Malawi Government] delaying the issuance of the licence, but together we are following the procedures. We wished these were finalised as soon as possible to enable the start of commercial operations so that we start getting taxes as a government.”
He said issuance of a rail operations licence was governed by a specific act and that there were clauses that needed to be adhered to, not just completion of the construction of the line.
In an e-mailed response on Friday, Marcos Teixeira, one of the directors of VLL, said there was one last and crucial document, the General Regulation, which was being analysed by the Ministry of Transport and Public Works.
He said: “Add to it, a number of documents that had to be produced and submitted as well as a full and careful inspection was carried out on the railway, locomotives, wagons, maintenance facilities and communication system.
“Trial trains were also required to confirm that the infrastructure can carry heavy and long trains.”
Teixeira said following the completion of the construction and upgrade of the new and the existing railway lines in Malawi, VLL and Central East African Railways (Cear) requested Ministry of Transport and Public Works for the opening of their railways in December 2014.
“Also in December 2014 CLN–Corridor LogisticoIntegrado de Nacala, an external company registered in Malawi, applied for authority to become a railway operator. The three of the processes are prescribed by law,” he said.
Teixeira said the three companies expect to get the ministry’s approval by the end of the month.
The construction and rehabilitation of the 136-kilometre railway line was a solution to problems that Vale Moçambique faced in transporting its coal to Nacala, the bigger and wider port.
Portuguese industrial and construction conglomerate, Mota-Engil, constructed the railway line.