Rail network upgrading essential

Limited capacity is one of the factors currently hampering the rail freight network.

06 May 2019 | Infrastructure

The completion and commissioning of the South Port Development Project and the North Port SADC Gateway Development in Walvis Bay are developments which are likely to determine the state of logistics, with Namibia set to become a logistics hub for the SADC region by 2025.

These developments, coupled with the completion of port/rail infrastructure around the port of Lüderitz and the commencement of manganese exports through the port, could significantly increase the railway percentage share for various cargos.

Namibia’s track and railway network transports approximately 1.2 billion TKM of cargo annually, according to information contained in the Namibia’s first Annual State of Logistics Report (NSol) 2018.

The document, commissioned by the Walvis Bay Corridor Group with support of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, further states that owing to limited capacity the existing railway system can only manage to haul between 15% to 20 % percent of the total freight market.

Improvements to the system could almost double volumes within the next five years from the current 1.6 metric tons to 3 million metric tons, which is a third of the national freight traffic volumes.

This, however, requires significantly increasing the railway percentage share for various cargos to which rail has a distinct advantage such as liquid bulk, dry bulk, containers, construction material and project cargo.

Presently rail freight share of liquid bulk stand at 45%. It is 25% for dry bulk, 6% for containers and 15% of the construction and project cargo market.

TransNamib enjoys this market share due to reliable shippers which include NamPower (coal), Dundee (copper concentrates), Namib Mills (wheat and maize), international shipping lines and forwarders, Namibia Breweries (containers, malt and hops), construction companies (cement and super sand) and Rössing mine (sulphuric acid).

The railway system moved 1.58 million metric tonnes of various commodities (both bulk ad containerised freight) in 2017 including cargo categorised as agriculture, building materials, bulk fuel, bulk liquid, general cargo and mining.

Another initiative to attract higher volumes involves increased capacity to absorb more traffic generated from seaports, cross-border traffic, mines, agricultural and manufacturing via centres on the five existing Trans-Namib corridors (Walvis Bay - Kranzberg, Kranzberg - Windhoek, Kranzberg - Oshikango, Tsumeb - Ondangwa / Ongwediva and Nakop / Ariamsvlei - Windhoek).

Currently 60 percent of rail traffic is generated from the Port of Walvis Bay and given the ongoing port expansion, there will be increased demand for freight services.

An estimated seven percent of the rail freight is currently generated from cross-border traffic.

There is only one rail connection to the network of South Africa. The exchange of locomotives takes place at Nakop with no trans-loading happening near the border.

Potential, however, exists to link with other networks such as that of Botswana, Zambia, Angola, DR Congo and Zimbabwe.

Approximately 0.4 million tonnes of building materials (25.6 percent) and 0.4 million tonnes of bulk liquid (25.6 percent) were transported via rail and this jointly made up half the total rail freight tonnage in 2017.

The rest of the cargo transported consisted of bulk fuel (0.3 million tonnes), mining (0.23 million tonnes), containers (0.12 million tonnes), agriculture-related products (0.1 million tonnes) and general cargo (0.02 million tonnes).

Road freight accounts for over 80 percent of total tonne kilometres (TTK) of goods transported in Namibia.

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