File photo: Boats travel in the Egyptian Nile River in Cairo (Photo: Reuters)
A privately-owned grains port on the Nile River will open on Thursday after three months of experimental operations, an operating company spokesperson told Ahram Online.
The port, which is operated by Nile Stevedoring and Storage Company (NSSC), is meant to encourage river transportation as an efficient means for commodity transportation, says NSSC executive manager Ismail Nawar.
A joint venture between private agri-business Wadi Holding and private supply chain MedSofts Holding, the port is located on a branch of the Nile River in the city of Nubarriya, 800 metres from Alexandria's Mediterranean coast.
The port's first phase, which cost LE300 million, is capable of exchanging 1.2 million tons of grain and storing 20,000 tons, Nawar says.
The second phase will increase storage capacity by 180,000 tons and add a grinding mill to the port, for a total cost of LE50 million.
Grain companies are the port's main benefactors, Nawar says.
Egypt operates its grain ports at nearly full capacity and is the world's leading wheat importer. The country processes some 20 million tons of grain and oil seeds every year, according to a July report by Reuters.
The NSSC plans to establish an additional port in Assiut in order to solve the problems arising from long distance commodity transportation, added Nawar.
Commodity transportation through the Nile is more fuel efficient than road transportation. As such, it is considered both cost efficient and environmentally friendly.
Each river barge can carry around 1000 tons of grain, 20 times more than the capacity of a truck, which means less fuel usage per ton, Nawar stated.
The energy consumed in river transportation is 44 percent less than that of land transportation. Damages from road accidents amount to LE3.4 billion annually, according to the Cairo governorate's website.
Egypt has suffered from fuel shortages over the past few years amid government plans to reduce fuel subsidies, which consume around a fifth of state budget expenditures.
The total bill for energy subsidies is expected to reach LE100 billion in 2013/14, compared to some LE120 billion last year, according to the Egyptian government.
Several companies are already investing in river barges, ports and storage facilities. These include Citadel Capital, which invested $200 million in river projects in 2012, and Nile Logistics, which plans to develop two more river ports.
There are 42 existing river ports across Egypt, Karim Abou El-Kheir, former head of Egypt's Nile River Transportation Authority, told Ahram Online. However, the potential of these ports has been limited due to lack of development and upgrades, Abou El-Kheir said.
The Nile transports some 3 million tons of commodities throughout Egypt, according to Abou El-Kheir.