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Below is a map of how waterways connect with railways in the Democratic Republic of Congo:

Democratic Republic of Congo Waterways

 

The waterway network in the Democratic Republic of Congo has always been a key factor in the development of the country: the strategic use of its richness allows many possibilities in terms of transportation and electricity production. 

Below is a map of the ports and waterways network in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

 

The navigation network of inland waterways of the Democratic Republic of Congo totals more or less 16,000 km in length and is based on the Congo River and its major lakes. It is divided into four sections, called navigable reach, often connected by rail, including:

  • The lower reach of the Congo River or the maritime in the west which totals 140 km from Banana (mouth) to the port of Matadi;
  • The middle reach in the north and center of the Congo River Basin with its two axes (Kisangani-Kwamouth and Ilebo-Kwamouth) including two lakes (Maindombe and Tumba) and leading to Kinshasa;
  • The upper reach in the east that goes from Ubundu to Province Orientale up to Lake Moero (Katanga Province) with two main axes Ubundu-Kindu and Kongolo-Bukama;
  • The chain of lakes comprised of lakes Mweru, Tanganyika, Kivu, Edward and Albert.

Until recently, management of inland navigation was carried out efficiently by the Board of Maritime Routes (RVM) on maritime reach and by the Board of Fluvial Routes (RVF) in the middle and upper reaches of Congo River. Currently, their response is reduced to a strict minimum.

Small scale, informal operators provide most transport among the Democratic Republic of Congo’s rivers. Though the country’s waterways once carried significant quantities of goods, the overall deterioration of the infrastructure over the past 50 years has also been felt in the river transport sector. Goods can typically travel on the main river routes of Ilebo-Kinshasa (Kasai and Congo Rivers), Kisangani-Mbandaka-Kinshasa (Congo River) and Gbadolité/Equateur Province-Kinshasa (Ubangui and Congo rivers). Goods arriving in Ilebo typically are then sent by rail/road to further points in the province of Kasaï Occidental, Kasaï Oriental and Katanga. Goods arriving in Kisangani can then be sent by rail/or road to Maniema, North Kivu and South Kivu.

Several barges pushed by a tug near Kisangani. 

 

There are also safety concerns as 4,770 passengers died and 153 vessels sank between 2008 and 2011 in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

EU/Europaid project has been underway since 2013 for improving the navigability of river and lake routes. The main objectives are:

  • Hydrography and hydrology: updating the follow-up system to optimize navigation capacities, especially during low water level seasons.
  • Upgrading and renovation of the river signals system for preventing accidents due to moving sandbanks and rocks. The RVF will also get new vessels and a renovated shipyard.
  • Improving port infrastructures: port equipment, handling and decks.
  • Capacity building for RVF’s staff: hydrography, river’s maintenance and port management. 

A passenger boat in Bukavu and an informal port in Kisangani (loaded with second hand vehicles from Asia)

 

4.1 Democratic Republic of Congo Government Contact List

Company Information

See 4.4 Democratic Republic of Congo Port and Waterways Company Contact List for information on waterway companies.

“Beach” boat crossing the the Congo river between Kinshasa and Brazzaville

For more information, please see the Master List of River Transporters.

Travel Time Matrix

 

Travel Time from Main port to other major Ports  (days) Barge (On the Congo River)

 

Kinshasa

Mbandaka

Bandundu

Ilebo

Kisangani

Akula

Lisala

Bumba

Kinshasa

 

7

6

12

17

11

11

12

Mbandaka

4

 n/a

3

14

5

6

7

Bandundu

6

13

 

6

23

17

17

18

Ilebo

12

3

19

 

29

23

23

24

Kisangani

12

8

23

29

 

5

4

3

Akula

8

4

17

7

9

 

3

4

Lisala

7

4

23

6

6

4

 

1

Bumba

8

5

18

24

7

6

1

 

Key Routes

International: CONGO RIVER

From KINSANGANI / To KINSHASA / MATADI / BOMA / BANANA

The Congo River is the second longest African river (4,700 km) after the Nile River. Its position astride the Equator and the homogeneous distribution of its tributaries enable it to have the best river rate of flow in Africa (41,000 m3 / s) and makes it the most consistent river in the world.

The Congo River has its source in southern Katanga, in the Musofi village, at an altitude of 1,435 meters and is called Lualaba up to Kisangani.

Between Kinshasa and Matadi, The Congo River is subject to numerous bottlenecks resulting in the presence of impassible rapids with a drop of 265 meters over a length of 300 km.

At 40 km from Matadi up to Inga, the Congo River drops 102 meters in a distance of 15 km and beyond Matadi, it widens to 4.6 km in Boma and 10 km in its estuary in Banana. It flows into the sea by a wide estuary in a distance of 45 km.

The main tributaries of the Congo River are:

  • The Kasai River, which is the largest (2,000 km long), located entirely within the tropical zone of the southern hemisphere;
  • The Ubangi River, the longest tributary with 2,300 km and ranks second in the rate of flow after the river Kasai. It is located entirely within the tropical zone of the northern hemisphere;
  • The Sangha River (790 km long), has its source in Cameroon, crosses the Central African Republic and the Republic of Congo;
  • The Luvua River, which is fed by  Lake Moero, the Lukuga, which is the outlet of Lake Tanganyika and the Lomani, which has its source in the Mitumba Mountains near Kamina.

 The Congo River and its tributaries total 25,000 km of navigable waterways.

 

Domestic: KASAI RIVER

From DILOLO (Katanga) / To ILEBO / KWAMOUTH

Kasai River is the most important tributary of the Congo River and  is located entirely within the tropical zone of the southern hemisphere.

  • The river is 2,000 km long with an average rate of flow of 12,000 m³ / s. Kasai River has its source in the swamps and the lakes of Dilolo region in the southwest Katanga, on the border with Angola where it is known as the Rio Casal.
  • It flows from south to north to Ilebo where it turns west and heads to the Congo River. In many places it is the border between Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • The main tributaries of the Kasai are Kwango, Sankuru, Lulua, the Fimi and Kwilu.
  • The section between the confluence with the Fimi is named Kwa River.

 

International: UBANGUI RIVER

From BANGUI / KINSANGANI / BRAZZAVILLE

  • The Ubangi is the main right bank tributary of the Congo River. This river has its source from the confluence of the Mbomou and Uele Rivers.
  • The river flows west for 350 km, then south-west where it passes Bangui, and goes on about 500 km to the south and flows into the Congo River on the right bank.
  • From its source up to 100 km after Bangui, the river forms the border with the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It then forms the border between the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo.
  • It is navigable downstream to Bangui, and boats (ferrys and pushed barges) commute from Kisangani and Brazzaville.
  • The length of the Ubangi River, from the confluence of Mbomou and Uele river is 1,120 km. However, together with the Uele, its left source, the Ubangi totals 2,272 km long.

 

 

 

Congo River

Kasai River

Ubangui River

Total Distance (km)

4,700 km

2,000 km

1,120 km

Width (m):

Broadest

Narrowest

4.6 km in Boma and 10 km in its estuary in Banana

n/a

n/a

River Flow

(m³ / second)

  • High flooding period(October – January = 57,670 m3/s)
  • Lower water period (February – March = 36,276 m3/s)
  • Lower flooding period (April – May = 40,282 m3/s)
  • Very low water period ( June-September = 32,000m3/s 

12,000

266

Seasonal Affects

  • High flooding period(October – January = 57,670 m3/s)
  • Lower water period (February – March = 36,276 m3/s)
  • Lower flooding period (April – May = 40,282 m3/s)
  • Very low water period ( June-September = 32,000m3/s 

n/a

n/a

Maximum Weight and

Size of Vessels

Vessels with a draft of 1.30 m during dry period and
2 m during flooding and whose load varies between 400 to 1,200 tons.

  • June – September = 6,775
  • October – May = 15,307
  • June – September = 6,775
  • October – May = 15,307

Regular Traffic

Passenger / Cargo

n/a

Maximum weight 500 tons

Maximum weight 500 tons

Companies Operating

Along the Route

DIOCESE DE TSHUMBE; AGRILUC; Ets OKA ; ADL TRADING;

VALELE; SETRA; SONYHO; LOFILS; CITRA; SETRA;TFCE

DIOCESE DE TSHUMBE; AGRILUC; Ets OKA ;

ADL TRADING; VALELE; SETRA;

SONYHO; LOFILS; CITRA; SETRA;TFCE

DIOCESE DE TSHUMBE; AGRILUC; Ets OKA ;

ADL TRADING; VALELE; SETRA; SONYHO;

LOFILS; CITRA; SETRA;TFCE

Security Concerns

(Yes / No)

Marginal

Marginal

Marginal

Main Ports

See Port Chapter  

 

For more information, please see the list of SNCC and Private Fleets on Lake Tanganyika.

Informal port (beside SCTP’s one) in Mbandaka.