The Republic of Mozambique is situated in southeastern Africa bordering the Indian Ocean on the eastern coast which is dotted with the country’s major ports and harbours. It also has 3750 km of navigable inland waterways for conducting inter-regional trade.
One of the poorest nations according to the International Monetary Fund, Mozambique has battled internal crises and corruption in recent decades. It has witnessed some economic growth due to the implementation of economic reforms, and the revival of agricultural, transportation and tourism sectors, as a result of key policy changes.
The government turned to privatisation and succeeded in attracting foreign direct investment which boosted industrial growth and led to infrastructural development, the establishment of chemical manufacturing and petroleum production. Mozambique’s major trade partners are India, the Netherlands, China, UAE and other South African nations. Let us have a look at the 5 biggest ports of Mozambique including the volume and type of cargo handled at these facilities.
Table of Contents
1. Port of Maputo
Maputo is the principal port of Mozambique, lying on the southern coastline facing the Indian Ocean. It is also the largest and most developed port of the country operated by Maputo Port Development Company owned by the Dubai Port World.
Maputo serves the southern hinterland, province of Gaza, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Botswana and the Transvaal region of South Africa. It deals with diverse cargo types such as citrus fruits, steel, grains, sugar, asbestos, coal, ferroalloys, container goods and other breakbulk. The city’s economy is based on numerous industries like shipbuilding, breweries, ironworks, cement and textiles whose finished products are also exported from this port whose favourable loading rates and efficient services have made it an attractive facility for charterers and shipping companies.
Situated in the capital city, Maputo port has a rich cultural heritage going back to the colonial era when it was considered an important port of the New World, known as Lourenzo Marques until 1976, after a Portuguese sailor who had arrived on its shores in 1544. It was later renamed Maputo after Mozambique achieved independence.
In 2021, Maputo Port achieved a new record as it registered a 21 per cent growth compared to 2020. The total volume of cargo handled in 2021 stood at 22.2 million tonnes versus the 18.3 million tonnes of the previous year. The port authorities regarded this tremendous progress as a result of post-covid market recovery, efficient utilisation of rehabilitated berths, dredging works and recent infrastructural development including complete digitisation of the terminal operations.
Maputo has 16 liner berths with a total berth length of 4000 m. There are two access channels in the north and south leading into Maputo harbour.
The port’s container terminals span 7 hectares and handle containerised cargoes like rice, fish products, construction material, automobiles etc. With a capacity to handle 100,000 TEU annually, the container facility is one of the busiest in South Africa. It has 4 warehouses and 68 reefer connections.
As the name suggests, this facility deals with all kinds of fresh and citrus fruits produced in the country. It has two wharves covering 390 m, a pre-cooling store and a capacity for 3150 pallets.
Bulk Sugar and Molasses Terminal
This facility has 180 m long and a 10 m deep wharf for handling raw bulk sugar using forklifts and shore cranes. It has three sugar storage sheds for keeping 120,000 metric tonnes of sugar. The molasses berth is connected to a pipeline leading to two storage tanks for storing 9000 metric tons of molasses.
Maputo’s grain terminal has an annual handling capacity of 400,000 tons of cereals, grains and soya bean meal. It can also store up to 30,000 tons in its storage yards.
The coastal terminal deals with general cargo, vehicles and a few containers. Comprising three berthing facilities, an open storage area spanning 15,000 sq m, a 5000 sq m warehouse space, and mechanical and repair workshops, this facility boasts of the only container maintenance and repair station in the country.
This deepwater facility serves oil tankers and ore carriers along with handling a variety of cargoes. The aluminium wharf can handle one million tonnes of bulk alumina, petroleum coke and pitch annually.
This terminal’s fuel wharf comprises two berths measuring 250 m, capable of handling 350,000 tons of light and heavy fuel and mineral oil products annually.
A major terminal of Maputo port, it comprises two docks spanning 500 m with an average water depth of 11 m for accommodating coal carriers. The facility handles 2.5 million tons of bulk mineral coal annually and stores around 370 tons of coal in the two open storage yards.
2. Port of Beira
Beira port lies on the Mozambique Channel at the mouth of rivers Pungoe and Buzi. It was founded by the Portuguese in 1890 as the headquarters of the Mozambique Company at the site of an old Muslim settlement. Known as Chiveve it was later renamed Beira in 1907 after Dom Luis Filipe, the prince of Beira who was the first royal to visit the country.
Beira is a crucial centre of trade and transportation due to its strategic position on Mozambique’s eastern coastline. Connected with roads and railways, it is a major facility for shipping central African goods and serves as a transhipment port for the inland countries of Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia. In 2019, 2.1 million tonnes of cargo passed through this facility which recorded a commendable 46% growth for 2020.
The second-largest port in the country exports tobacco, ores, animal hides, foodstuff and imports wheat, fertilisers, textiles, heavy equipment and beverages. It comprises 12 wharves with a total quay length of 2500 m and a fishing harbour constructed in the 1980s. Processing plants, canneries and chilled storage areas are concentrated in the southern port area.
Beira’s container handling facility is one of the most technologically advanced in the South African region. Endowed with the Navis N4 System, the terminal offers online communication services with shipping lines and clients.
This facility comprises a 645 m long and a 12 m deep berth serviced by two 65 ton gantry cranes. It also contains two covered sheds spanning 11,000 sq m for handling 100,000 TEU annually. Its storage and stacking facilities include a 210,000 sq m illuminated container yard with 145 reefer connections for 3120 TEU and some hazardous goods. Container stuffing and stripping operations are conducted at the 9,000 sq m warehouse. Additionally, a dedicated storage area for granite is also available.
In 2020, the container terminal recorded a 1.7% decline as it handled 255,459 TEU, compared to 259,938 TEU handled in the previous year.
General Cargo Terminal
This facility incorporates four berths for dealing with 2.3 million metric tons of cargo every year. It has 5 warehouses spanning 15,000 sqm and a 12,000 sq m open paved area for storing ferrochrome, granite and steel. Additional cold storage facilities are available for keeping fruits and vegetables. It also houses a dedicated coal pier and an oil jetty. The latter can accommodate oil tankers weighing more than 60,000 DWT with a draft of 12 m. A 100 m passenger wharf located near the port entrance accommodates small boats and ferries. In 2020 this terminal handled 3.13 million tonnes of cargo breaking the previous record of 2.64 million tonnes.
3. Port of Nacala
Possessing the finest deepwater harbour in South Africa, Nacala port is located in northern Mozambique at the southern tip of the Baia de Bengo. A large and well-sheltered port, it has an 800 m wide and 60 m deep access channel. Nacala handles the majority of the international trade of landlocked Malawi and is visited by over 200 ships annually.
The port became operational in 1951 as it was developed after the second world war to serve the hinterland. By 1970 it handled about 500,000 tons of cargo, becoming the third biggest port of Mozambique.
It has facilities for dealing with diverse cargo such as coal, cotton, tea, tobacco, groundnuts, sisal, timber, maize and animal hides.
The General Cargo Terminal comprises a 675 m long dock divided into 4 berths with alongside depths of 9.5 m. Shoreside cranes with varying lifting capacities, 5 forklifts, reach stackers and mobile cranes are utilised for port operations. The terminal also incorporates 8 warehouses covering 21,000m2. Bunkering services are also provided at the general cargo berths.
The liquid bulk terminal has a wharf connected to three fuel tanks through an oil pipeline.
The Container Terminal incorporates two docks measuring 375 m equipped with forklifts, top-loaders and reach stackers for moving containers. It has an annual handling capacity of 100,000 TEU and enough storage for accommodating 6000 TEU.
4. Port of Quelimane
Quelimane is a medium-sized port lying on the eastern bank of the river Bons Sinais. The facility offers a short maritime route for exporting the region’s crops from the province of Zambezia. Spanning 230 m, the concrete pier handles exports of Copra, sisal, tea, edible oil, timber, coconut, cotton, cashew nuts and receives shipments of fuels, lubricating oil, cement, manufactured goods, machinery and motor vehicles. Approximately 85,000 tons of cargo and 4900 TEU are handled at the port annually.
It is also linked to the river Zambezi through inland waterways and used by the Sena sugar factory for exporting sugar through river barges. A freight railway station and two warehouses are adjacent to the facility.
An important agricultural export facility of the region, Quelimane is also a crucial logistical transhipment port serving the remote and landlocked provinces of the north due to its proximity to the coal fields in Tete province.
Previously operated by Cornelder, the port’s management returned to Mozambique Ports and Railways Administration in 2017 which undertook dredging works of the port’s access channel and cleared debris from the manoeuvring basin. The authorities have planned to revive it as a major fish exporting facility by constructing a fishing dock.
5. Port of Pemba
The Pemba port lies in the northern region of Mozambique near Pemba Bay and borders Tanzania. Having an excellent natural harbour, it exports timber, maize, cotton, seed cotton and imports general cargo, machinery and packaged food. It has facilities for handling a few containers and petroleum products. A separate berth in the western port area is designated for accommodating only coastal vessels. The small deepwater facility is mainly used for cabotage shipping. Around 411 ships, 551,823 million tonnes of breakbulk and 5006 TEU were handled at Pemba in 2020.
It comprises a general cargo berth spanning 180 m with a maximum draft of 9 m and a floating dock covering 140 m for accommodating landing crafts involved in the oil and gas projects in the Rovuma Basin. It has a 1800m2 covered warehouse and a 20,000m2 open storage area. A container freight station and a cold storage space are also available. However, the authorities are planning to construct additional berths for transforming it into a major container handling facility.
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