National Oil Company of Malawi (Nocma) says it is hopeful the fuel supply situation in the country will improve following the arrival of 1.1 million litres of diesel from Nacala Port in Mozambique through rail.
In an interview after receiving a first block train carrying 29 wagons of diesel at Nocma Blantyre depot in Matindi yesterday, depot manager Michael Malanga said the commencement of fuel importation through train will stabilise the fuel situation in the country.
He said 1.1 million litres of diesel received yesterday is meant for the Southern Region alone and that about one million litres of petrol was on transit from Beira through road transport.
Said Malanga: “We are very much excited to see that we are finally here with first consignment of fuel through rail. That is in line with strategic goals to make sure that we have got enough fuel reserves in the country.”
Faces of some officials and employees of Nocma and Nacala Logistics, formerly Central East African Railways (Cear), lit up as the train arrived at exactly 1pm.
Some were overheard saying it was the beginning of serious business in as far as Nocma Blantyre depot is concerned.
Reacting to the development in separate interviews, Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) executive director John Kapito and Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences associate professor of economics Betchani Tchereni welcomed the development.
However, Kapito said the fuel importation through rail is not what Malawians should celebrate, but the availability of fuel in the country.
“Right now our problem is forex, so that [1.1million litres of diesel] will not eliminate the queues that we are experiencing now,” he said.
Tchereni said the importation of fuel through rail transportation should not be just a thing of a single day if the fuel situation is to stabilise in the country.
“It’s the hope that going forward, Nocma, PIL [Petroleum Importers Limited] and others can embrace rail because it has a number of advantages. Imagine 1.1 million litres for one trip, if you are to consider exports will be the same,” he said.
PIL, a consortium of private sector oil marketing companies, has in recent months been using rail to haul some of its fuel.
In 2018, Nocma embarked on the construction of rail siding at its Lilongwe and Blantyre Strategic Fuel Reserves (SFRs). Lilongwe SFRs were completed and commissioned in January 2020 while Blantyre SFR rail siding facilities which has the capability of about 25 million litres were completed and commissioned in December 2022.
Nocma yesterday indicted that about 19.4 million litres of fuel was expected to arrive in Malawi this week.