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Jorge Fernandes

Managing Director, Maersk Mozambique

Athol Emerton

Managing Director, LBH Africa

Would you characterize Mozambique as a shipping hub for Southern Africa? JORGE FERNANDES The Port of Nacala is next in line after Maputo and Beira, in my personal view—I believe […]

Would you characterize Mozambique as a shipping hub for Southern Africa?

JORGE FERNANDES The Port of Nacala is next in line after Maputo and Beira, in my personal view—I believe this development will occur in the short term. There is considerable road infrastructure development taking place and the network is improving rapidly in the Nacala region. We are starting to see one or two transporters spanning Nacala and Malawi. There is also considerable rail activity taking place, albeit rather erratic in nature. This is important for Nacala because once Beira reaches saturation point it will curb national growth aspirations. If you look at the port’s statistics, you clearly see what is moving through in terms of domestic and transit cargo. There is considerable transit cargo in Beira; at least 70% of cargo coming into the town is transit and 30% domestic.

ATHOL EMERTON I think that it is already considered a hub, and always has been. Political constraints in the past have been the obstacle, which now lifted, have made way for investor interest. However, the fundamentals of Mozambique have not changed. It boasts one of the longest coastlines in Africa and has the ability to deliver to a number of central and southern African countries. Beira was not built solely for Mozambican traffic, and neither were Nacala or Maputo, but for international trade. Mozambique as a shipping nation is open for business.

How would you characterize your focus in Mozambique?

JF We have been present in Mozambique for over 15 years. Originally, we saw a real opportunity in terms of trying to develop the hinterland, the main focal point at the time. Since then, we have seen our market share grow annually. There are challenges that we face in terms of port infrastructure, but these have not detracted from the fact that we taken the opportunity to invest and grow in Mozambique. We are one of the few carriers to have started off in Mozambique, and facing new competitors here confirms that there notable growth potential here. We started in Beira, but after the civil war, in which Beira was the hardest hit city in Mozambique, appalling living conditions prompted our relocation to Maputo. However, in 2012 our head office returned to Beira, which is really the heart and soul of the shipping industry, and today we’re here to stay. We have seen the wider opportunities too, having opened offices in Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Zambia in 2013. Unfortunately, Mozambique is not a manufacturing hub, producing largely for local consumption. We are very much a raw minerals or raw materials exporter, with finished goods being imported, which has clearly fueled the growth of the ports.

AE We saw it as a sensible business proposition. Mozambique has the closest ports to the coalfields of South Africa, Beira is the closest for Zimbabwean products, and Nacala is the closest port for the products of Malawi. Therefore, it was logical to develop business here for the long term. We had to have a robust operating system to work in this environment, because there was very little state capital expenditure at that time, understandable after such a devastating conflict period, and only limited training available. We were the owners of the Matola Coal Terminal for a while, as it was strategic to our efforts to transport coal from South Africa, although we subsequently sold it to Grindrod. Had we not taken control of that terminal, the whole chain would have collapsed. At the considerable loss of opportunity to our ships agency business, we bought the terminal, stabilized it, and then offloaded the asset because our function is to manage these flows and make sure they work with all the various asset owners.

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