The Mozambican government intends to ensure that regular coastal shipping services begin in the first half of this year, says Transport Minister Carlos Mesquita.

He told a media conference here Wednesday after a meeting to review his Ministry’s activities in 2016, Mesquita said coastal shipping could reduce asymmetries from the point of view of competitiveness, and reduce the prices of goods. Sending goods by sea would certainly be cheaper than by road.

The conditions are still being established. Within the next ten days, we shall have meetings with three companies that have already presented proposals, and are discussing with Transmaritima (the State-owned shipping company) how to develop coastal shipping, he added.

Mesquita said the revival of coastal shipping services would ensure the rehabilitation of secondary and tertiary ports and would also have a direct impact on local development, since it would boost agricultural production, providing a secure means of transporting crops.

Surveying the country’s main ports and their associated road and rail corridors, Mesquita admitted that some of them had suffered a reduction in the volume of traffic they handled, which he blamed on the country’s macro-economic situation, and the fall in international commodity prices.

But we are clear about the concrete steps we have to take and we shall continue with the various programmes of investment in the ports, he said.

Among these investments was the dredging of the Maputo Port access channel, the rehabilitation of berths, and the acquisition of additional cargo-handling equipment.

Mesquita said the government was also determined to persuade exporters of minerals to switch from road transport to rail in order to reach Maputo port. This would depend on the publicly owned rail and port company, CFM, organizing itself so as to win this market. Rail transport should be more attractive than road haulage, given the economies of scale involved.