Apollo 11, a Mozambican vessel which was last week authorised to carry goods and passengers between Malawi and Mozambique through the Shire-Zambezi Waterway has revived one of the late Bingu wa Mutharikaâ€™s colourful dreams.
The waterway, which the former president launched on October 23 2010 amid protest from Mozambican authorities on account that the two countries were yet to conduct feasibility studies, was tipped to reduce transport cost in the country by at least 40 percent.
Malawi is one of countries with the highest transport costs in the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) Region and this makes its exports uncompetitive on the global market.
Nsanje district commissioner Rodney Simwaka confirmed in an interview with Malawi News Agency (Mana) that the 45-seater boat was certified to carry goods between Nsanje and Megaza in Mozambique.
â€œThe boat operators got a licence from the Marine Department to start running on the Shire-Zambezi Waterway last week.
â€œThis will encourage passengers who frequently travel to Mozambique and Malawi to use chartered router, thereby reducing water accidents,â€ he said.
Simwaka said Apollo 11, whose registration number is Q954 AC, is owned by Megaza assistant district commissioner Franco Manuel Sabonete.
He said the development will also promote trade and relationship between the people of the two countries.
Simwaka urged Malawians with motorised boats to join Sabonete in exploring business opportunities on the waterway.
â€œCurrently, Nsanje has only two engine boats. One belongs to the council and another one to the Marine Department,â€ he said.
Simwaka has, however, asked the boat operators to have specific times of arrival and departure in the district to allow the marine, police and Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) officials to monitor what is going in and out of the country.
Marine Department district vessel assistant surveyor Moffat Sichali said they checked the condition of the boat before it was licensed to operate on the waterway.
â€œA boat can only be licensed to operate on the waterway if it is made of the right materials, has life jackets on board and its engine is in good condition.
â€œAs for Apollo 11, it is currently carrying 15 passengers because it only has 15 life jackets. It will start operating on full scale when it has all the 45 life jackets and, at least, two spare ones,â€ he said.â€”With additional reporting by Mana