By Islam Atris
The River Transportation Authority is preparing to adopt a group of measures aimed at facilitating movement of investment into the sector. The authority aims to raise the country’s river transport capacity such that 10% of local goods are moved via the Nile. The authority is also trying to expand river transportation capabilities elsewhere in Africa.
General Abdel-Qadr Darwish, president of the General Authority for River Transport, revealed that the body will hold a world conference during the first week of December under the auspices of the European Union and will be moderated by Minister of Transportation Dr. Ibrahim EL-Demiri.
The conference will discuss the best ways to invest in the transport of goods and passengers across the Nile and create a direct connection with both foreign and Egyptian investors. He indicated that there will be a good opportunity for all companies to demonstrate their potential to contribute.
The conference will also show the world the ability of the Nile River to accommodate many promising investments. Darwish asserted that periodic monthly press conferences will be held to discuss the achievements of the River Transport Authority over the course of this process.
Darwish told Logistic that the authority initiated the second stage of its development programme with a meeting of experts from the European Union. In the meeting, experts discussed the creation of a new organisational structure for the River Transport Authority.
General Darwish added that this stage of the development programme will open new areas for investment in river transport. It will also bring the authority unprecedentedly close to the market and companies operating in the field of river transport.
Darwish indicated that work is currently under way to eliminate all problems that were blocking companies from seeking licences to engage in river transport. He pointed out that what matters is that the authority allowing companies to operate has a strong capital and technological structure, combined with a serious intention to work and invest. Therefore, increased regulation of the transport of goods and passengers are expected in the near future.
The president of the River Transport Authority said that the French Development Agency (AFD) will stay connected with the authority to follow the programme’s development. This will be a prelude to its participation in upcoming projects expected to begin in the near future. He pointed out that the Dutch Ambassador told the Egyptian government that the Netherlands wants to invest in river transport, in particular, the transport of passengers. He indicated that the Netherlands is very interested in funding private studies and eventually, a construction for a planned water taxi project to be launched within months. General Darwish stated that the River Transport Authority will deal with investors during the coming months in a way that makes them feel comfortable with their investments in Egypt. He stressed that the authority will give its full attention to all companies investing in the area of river transport.
He pointed specifically to a nearby river port in Qena, which he suggested will be a point of entry for goods coming into Egypt through the port in Safaga. These goods will be transported first to the port of Qena and then to the rest of Egypt. He added that the River Transport Authority will ensure that construction of the river port will conform to international safety standards.
Darwish referred to the ministerial decision to improve all river ports on the banks of the Nile. Many of these ports operate without licences from the River Transport Authority, and thus have not had ample access to safety equipment.
He asserted that the River Transport Authority will work in the coming months to immediately begin implementing this ministerial decision. In the process, each port operator will eventually receive a licence from the authority, after receiving necessary upgrades, and continue to operate under the governing body’s umbrella. He stressed that the process of approving the conditions will not involve any fines against the owners of these ports.
Darwish also pointed out that the NCBC, the investment branch of the National Bank of Egypt, will initiate a permanent stream of support to restructure the River Transport Authority. This move was made with the intention of financing large investment projects in the area of river transport.
Darwish confirmed that the authority took into consideration the requirements outlined by NCBC officials that river ports must be turned into companies.
NCBC handles the department of investments of the Egyptian National Bank, which is valued at more than EGP 15bn. This arm of the bank focuses on four main sectors: industry, tourism, banking and financial institutions. It holds an approximately EGP 600m stake in an agricultural company, owns 21% of the country’s petrochemical projects, and is also working to restructure one of the hospitals that it recently acquired. The bank is also working on a project with an Arab investor seeking to provide new services to the Egyptian market.
The first stage of the development programme and restructuring of the River Transport Authority ended up dividing the body into three main parts. The first is infrastructure, which includes technical maritime issues. The second, introduced for the first time, involves transferring projects and ports to the private sector. The third works on reforming the authority so that it can better deal with private companies in conjunction with the Ministry of Investment.