The Ministry of Transport is preparing to implement a package of expansionary projects for the railway and roads, as well as river and maritime transport, to help improve and facilitate freight transport within the country.
The initiative will also support the export sector by providing a transportation network capable of fulfilling export needs and overcoming a number of obstacles, which emerge when transporting certain types of perishable goods, such as food items and agricultural crops.
Member of the Freight Transport Association Ahmed Al-Zeiny said Egypt’s refrigerated transport fleet expanded by 20% annually over the past five years, and that the fleet is currently sufficient for the volume of food product transport within the Egyptian market. Egypt requires a qualified transport network, which the state is currently attempting to implement through new road projects and efforts to both rehabilitate railway networks and revive river transport.
In many instances exporters have resorted to using Jordanian transport cars to facilitate trade between several Arab countries, he said. This saves 25% of transportation costs due to the low cost of transporting freight. If Jordanian trucks return empty, they often agree to transport Egyptian goods at reduced prices to cover return costs.
The opening of the Qustul land port on the Egyptian-Sudanese border helped revitalise trade between Egypt and African countries, especially in terms of importing Sudanese meat, both in frozen and live forms. Trade movement is expected to increase after the Arqin port opens on the border between Egypt and Sudan as well.
On the other hand, the Egyptian Ministry of Transport is working on increasing the railways share of total freight transports to 30% by 2020.
Head of the Railway Authority Major General Ahmed Hamid said the authority offered a global tender to select a consultant to restructure the railway freight transport sector to take full advantage of available facilities. A meeting was held within the Ministry of Supply on transporting strategic goods via the authority, especially grain from Egyptian ports.
Hamid said the authority will cover all types of transportation, including refrigerated and container transport, and will rely on the private sector to improve service and achieve maximum benefit.
Government agencies that use cargo trains to transport commodities constitute 85% of total users, with the armed forces at the forefront. The commodities sector is currently approaching the Railways Authority and government agencies and institutes, as well as other private sector entities, to transport goods via railways as an alternative to land.
The railway commodities sector suffers low rates of cargo due to more time on longer trips compared to road transport. The authority is working on increasing the volume of goods transported via the railway by asking that new lines be established in the near future.
The railway’s share does not exceed 1% of all freight transported within the country, which is “unacceptable”, Hamid said. The World Bank, in recommendations presented to the Egyptian government, requested that laws governing railway lines be amended to allow local and foreign private sector companies to operate those lines.
The Railway Authority intends to submit a request to parliament to amend laws governing the authority to maximise the government’s role in goods transport activities and enhance competition between the public and private sectors to provide the best service.
He said a Spanish company is currently preparing a feasibility study to implement a high-speed train to transport goods along the west bank of the Nile, extending from Alexandria to Aswan and passing through several governorates. The new line will be faster than freight trains on the current network, which travel at speeds of 50 km/hour.
Minister of Transport Saad Al-Geioushy said a project was offered to the private sector to develop four rail lines at an investment cost of $200m, which will be used to transport goods and increase the volume of items transported on the lines. The new lines will operate for containers and refrigerated freight.
The biggest priorities were rail and river freight transport due to their potential to ease the pressure on Egyptian roads, and would save EGP 6bn per year allocated to maintain roads as a result of excessive loads. The initiative is also intended to decrease road accidents, he said.
The Ministry of Transport is engaged in implementing the National Roads Project, which was announced by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in 2014. The project is expected to be completed by August 2016 and Egyptian ports will be connected to the new road network, with areas allocated to trucks in order to facilitate freight transport.
Al-Geioushy pointed out that these roads absorb 171,000 vehicles and 182,000 tonnes daily.
The Damietta Port Authority is also seeking to create a major free zone behind its port for manufacturing and exporting agricultural projects. The project will enhance opportunities for the port to export agricultural products and create a free zone for packaging, thanks to the governorate’s location within the Delta.
The authority recently developed a refrigerator container to preserve agricultural crops, with a storage capacity of up to 3,000 tonnes, located directly on the goods dock.
Damietta Port exports various fruits, with oranges taking the lead for fruits that pass through the port.
The Damietta Port Authority aims to be Egypt’s top port for handling grain, wheat crops in particular, after establishing a global logistics centre on its docks. The port is expected to handle 65m tonnes of wheat annually, of which 45m will be processed on the docks and 20m within various provinces.
On a related note, the Ministry of Transport is planning to establish a logistics centre in 6th of October and 10th of Ramadan Cities, which will facilitate exports and imports through Damietta Port.
Vice President of the Damietta Port Authority Mohammad Sadat said the Damietta-Cairo river line has been re-opened to jumpstart river transport once again after being completely stalled for a number of years. The line will help transport strategic goods and alleviate pressure on roads.
Sadat said Damietta Port aims to handle 1.2m containers in 2016 after development work undertaken by the Port Authority is completed. Negotiations are currently underway to establish two maritime lines to attract work within the Port.