South African firm to supply container wagons for Lobito railway

Oliver Ochieng, bird story agency……

South Africa’s Galison Manufacturing has secured a concession to supply modern container wagons to the Lobito railway, furthering localization in the modernization drive for the 1300km rail corridor between Zambia and the Atlantic Ocean.

Announcing the award, Galison said it would provide 275 new container wagons to the Lobito Atlantic Railway (LAR) consortium.

“The new wagons are compatible with the existing rolling stock in the Southern African Development Community region. They were designed considering local conditions on the railway to ensure the smooth transport of critical minerals and other materials for both domestic and international traffic,” Lobito Atlantic Railway CEO Francisco Franca explained in a statement.

The move also underscores a desire by the investors to combine regional and international expertise for the project, which is funded through a public-private partnership.

The consortium is a joint venture led by Singapore-based multinational commodity trader, Trafigura, Portuguese construction and infrastructure management firm, Mota-Engil, and Belgian rail operator, Vecturis.

In July 2023, the consortium won a 30-year concession to operate, manage and maintain the iconic railway built nearly 100 years ago. Lobito is critical to facilitating cross-border trader in critical minerals such as copper, cobalt, coal, zinc, lead, timber, sugar, maize and coffee from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Angola, and Zambia.

Gallison is a major regional manufacturer and supplier of railway freight wagons and underground mining equipment, supplying a wide range of modern freight wagons locally and internationally.

The deal will be implemented in three phases, starting at the end of 2024.

“A team from LAR recently visited Galison Manufacturing’s facilities to monitor the start of production of the wagon prototypes that will start to be delivered later this year,” Franca explained.

The wagons will be able to carry 10 ft, 20 ft and 40 ft-long containers, providing flexibility in terms of the kinds of loads to be transported, and offering operational efficiency for the transportation of bulky goods, especially minerals.

The corridor was abandoned in the 1970s due to regional conflicts.

In addition to the governments of Zambia, the DRC and Angola, the majority of investors in the rail project have been foreign firms and western countries, including the US, the EU and most recently Italy.

The US has in the past announced investments of up to US$250 million through the US Development Finance Corporation. In September 2023, the US further issued a statement announcing it was ‘teaming up’ with the EU to spearhead the rehabilitation of the rail project, estimated to cost close to US$600 million.

Italy has become the latest Western country to invest, committing a further US$320 million to the project, with the announcement made by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni on June 13, at the 2024 G7 Leaders’ Summit in Italy.

The investment from Italy is part of Italy’s Mattei Plan, an initiative aiming to make Italy an energy hub for the transport of natural gas and energy from Africa to Europe.

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