CAIRO: Nile Cargo purchased this week 100 custom-designed barges, which the company says meet strict environmental standards.
The portfolio company of Nile Logistics, a subsidiary of private equity firm Citadel Capital, said the addition will “allow Nile Cargo to double its capacity.”
Yasser Areeda, managing director of Nile Cargo, said, “The efficient and environmentally considered design allows us to dramatically cut per-unit shipping costs, while producing lower levels of emissions compared to road transportation.”
The company explained that the new barges will have a carrying capacity of 1,500-1,600 tons or 92 TEUs per barge. The design was provided by Ship Design Group, while Bureau Veritas, a marine certification body, supervised barge construction and the classification process to meet international safety and quality standards.
The barges are double the length of their existing barges, which measure 50 meter hulls, Nile Cargo explained.
Once delivery of all the new ships has been completed, Nile Cargo will have 135 vessels in its fleet, and will carry all types of dry bulk goods as well as containers.
“We are expecting to move this year around 700,000 tons, and 10 million tons of cargo annually by the year 2015,” said Areeda.
The move is part of the company’s strategy to expand its operations in a less environmentally-invasive manner.
Nile Cargo explained that at present 95 percent of freight transport occurs on road versus water or rail, which are considered to be less carbon intensive.
This claim was upheld by Mostafa Ghaith, head of Integrated Water Management Unit from the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, who explained that, in general, river transport is more environmentally-friendly in contrast to road transport.
However, he qualified his statement, stating that this is only the case if a commitment has been made by the transporter to follow the rules and the regulations established by the environmental regulatory authority, the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency, part of the Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs.
Ghaith added that if river transport companies respect regulations, then given that it is more environmentally friendly, river transport should be expanded in favor of road transport.
Although some pollution can occur due to river transport, the main sources of pollution, Ghaith indicated, originated from untreated wastewater and both the paper and chemicals industries.
Ashraf Naguib, CEO of Global Trade Matters, a forum on international trade agreements, said, “River transport can indeed have an impact on pollution in the Nile due to, for example, the type of fuel barges run on.”
Yet, he explained that in the future it would be possible for barges to be running on diesel, biodiesel or even solar power rather than current sources of fuel which may have a negative environmental impact.
In spite of the relatively small concerns about the environmental challenges, as Ghaith noted, river transport, Naguib indicated, is fundamental to the Egyptian economy.
Despite a global trend toward expanding river transport, as in Europe and the United States where road networks are highly advanced – and rail especially on the European continent – in Egypt it is critical for the flow of goods, as the Nile runs through several countries, all of which have very poor road and rail infrastructure.
“Egypt is unique in this sense,” Naguib stated. “The Pyramids are a great example of the centrality of the Nile river in terms of transport in Egypt: It is the blood life of the country, and without it, those great monuments of the past would not likely have been erected,” he opined.
Naguib also commented that in spite of the importance of river transport in Egypt, significant funds are being funneled into road infrastructure projects in areas near Upper Egypt and Ain Sokhna, for instance, and that the uptake of promoting river transport has been very slow relative to road transport.
“River transport would be even more efficient in Egypt if more investment was geared towards it, especially in the south,” he added, as currently road and rail networks are virtually inexistent or, at the very least, inadequate to meet the needs of the country and the freight industry in particular.
As a result, Naguib said, steps have been taken to expand river transport routes for shipping between Egypt and Sudan, which explains Nile Cargo’s decision to purchase extra barges to extend its parent company’s reach — Nile Logistics — deeper into Sudan, thereby connecting it with the Mediterranean Sea.
Vessels will carry all types of dry bulk goods as well as containers.