A number of major rivers cross Mozambique, the main ones being the Rovuma, Lúrio, Zambezi, Púngue, Save, Limpopo, Incomati and Umbeluzi rivers. The biggest is the Zambezi River.
Like all rain-fed rivers, the levels and force of the currents of Mozambique’s rivers fluctuate considerably with the seasons, and banks and shallows shift constantly. This makes navigation difficult and time consuming when trying to locate safe channels. Occasionally barges are forced to wait for rain somewhere upstream to be able to continue their voyage. There is not a lot of organised river transport, with the exception of Sena Sugar Estates on the Zambezi River.
Sena Sugar has one 300-ton flat-top barge and a pusher tug. Sugar for export is transported to Quelimane, and to Beira for transhipment. A 30 ton self-propelled barge is located in Caia and may be used for emergencies, as can other smaller barges owned by commercial operators.
A feasibility study on the proposed $6-billion Shire–Zambezi waterway, which will give Malawi access to the sea through the Nsanje inland port, has indicated that the project is technically feasible but not financially viable without investment from the beneficiary countries of Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia.
Mozambique shares a shoreline of approximately 350 km on Lake Malawi with Tanzania and Malawi, with road access to the lakeshore at Cóbue, Metangula and Meponda. None of these locations have any port infrastructure, but, on occasion, bigger vessels have called at Cóbue and Metangula from Malawi, and break-bulk shipments were discharged using small local wooden boats to ferry cargo ashore.
For more information on government contact details, please see the following link: 4.1 Government Contact List
The movement of passengers in inland waterways is insignificant, as most use small, local craft.
For more information on waterway company contact details, please see the following link: 4.3 Port and Waterways Companies Contact List
In the Southern region, there are few river transport operators. In the past, when a flood-related emergency occurs, local fishermen are mobilised to assist stranded populations and those at risk. Members of the yacht clubs in Maputo have also been called upon to make their Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs) and other ski boats available to provide assistance.
In the Central Region, there is generally better river transport capacity. Given the periodic reoccurrence of flood emergencies, operators have maintained their fleets in the area, e.g. Caia. There is also some movement of commercial boats on the Zambezi River. The available capacity includes 3 barges (under 10 dwt), with a combined capacity of 26 tons, and 11 barges or ferry boats (above 50 dwt) with a combined capacity of 550 tons. In addition to the barges owned by Sena Sugar, the larger capacity barges include a 200-ton barge owned by a palm oil company, and five 50-ton barges owned by other private operators.
River or lake transport availability on the lake of the Cahora Bassa Dam includes privately-owned boats with a total capacity of 47 tons.
There is no river transport capacity in the Northern Region.