Nacala Corridor - A challenge at the scale of the Mota-Engil Group

Nacala Corridor - A challenge at the scale of the Mota-Engil Group

On the day the works for the Nacala corridor were awarded – which, along with a total of five works in Angola, enabled a significant increase in 900 million Euros for Africa – the CEO Jorge Coelho deemed it a historical day for the company due to the size of the awarded projects (which represent over half of the 1,600 million Euros in Africa) and also because the Nacala project allows for a collaboration with Vale, the second greatest mining company in the world, in a huge project that shows the trust in Mota-Engil’s work.

Throughout the tender for the Nacala corridor, Mota-Engil competed with other established international companies within a project that cost a total of 706 million Dollars (approximately 568 million Euros) and a deadline of 27 months.

In terms of finance, the fact that Mota-Engil obtained financing from Standard Bank – a South African financial partner - is noteworthy, since they highly contribute for the project to be finalised, showing a clear sign of trust and acknowledgement of the growing path Mota-Engil have established in Africa.  

This project foresees a brand new railway between the border of Mozambique and Malawi and Nkaya Junction – close to Liownde, Malawi’s capital – that is 145.1 km long with a very demanding and difficult geography on a mixed land with large excavations and embankments.

Throughout the project – which will count on 3,500 workers at its peak – around 28 works of art shall be built (4,840 metres long) estimating 10 million m3 of earthmoving machinery, 19 km of hydraulic lines, 9.7 km of Box Culverts, 225,000 railway lines and 175,000 m3 of ballast, among other impressive indicators of the project size.

This section is part of a railway corridor with a total extension of over 900 km that connects the coal mining concessions of Moatize – province of Tete – in Mozambique to the Nacala Harbour, crossing Malawi, making this an essential infrastructure for channelling the mineral resources through the greatest harbour with the deepest sea in southern Africa with access to the Indian Ocean.  

In order for a project with such dimensions as the Nacala corridor to be carried out, the capacity to plan, move resources and management equipment is essential.
The loading carried out in May of 9,100 m3 rolling stock and several containers of additional material, shows the company’s capacity to respond as a whole, having represented the greatest logistical operation of such a project on a sole ship at Setúbal Harbour, with Sadoport – Mota-Engil’s affiliate - as concessionaire.

The operation to be unloaded in Durban, South Africa and Maputo harbours, as well as Beira in Mozambique, was consigned to Transitex in South Africa and Transitex in Mozambique in another example of Group synergies, which shall permit an efficient response to all logistics from the loading in Setúbal to the final destination, always complying with the door-to-door regime.  

Through the strategic importance of the Nacala corridor awarding for Mota-Engil, SINERGIA has contacted Gilberto Rodrigues, CEO of Mota-Engil Africa, so that he could give more details on the project and its actual execution.

To add to his current executive functions in Africa, Gilberto Rodrigues started his activities in Malawi in 2001 - making him nowadays an expert on the country – leading to his part as a distinguished representative in project negotiations between Mota-Engil and Vale.  

What significance did the awarding of the Nacala project have for Mota-Engil?

The awarding of the Nacala corridor project is a synonym for excellence within Mota-Engil, excellence in the capacity and credibility which the company showed to its clients, VALE, in all that it is worth - organisation, management, technical skills, rigour, credibility, curriculum and on the field experience. However, excellence in our commercial capacity to study something that is very complex as well, with huge amounts of work and to be able to, at all times, defend our bid and operational strategy before the clients and designers in case of project awarding, leading to a successful tenderer agreement in terms of Mota-Engil ability. Furthermore, it is also a sign of business vitality and cohesion uniting all company fields under a sole leadership with the single goal that is – to win! It is also the dawn of a new horizon, the horizon of the great engineering and infrastructure projects, a new dimension and new dynamics that turn Mota-Engil into a key and respected company within the African environment – namely Sub-Saharan Africa.  

What are the involved fields / companies within Mota-Engil, how many workers will be called and how many Portuguese shall be included in the project?

This is a truly cross-cutting project; in Engineering we have the commercial field, concrete and precast management, geotechnical department and special foundations, logistics, railways and Cosamo in South Africa. Then Malawi’s branch shall be enhanced with the technical and human resources for carrying out this huge project. Transitex and Sadoport in the Service field. In the corporative area there is great development in the financial and Human Resource fields. Therefore, this project directly affects 3500 workers, with an expatriation rate amounting to 500 workers, out of which 300 are Portuguese. However, another 200 workers within seven different countries are indirectly affected. This will surely be one of the greatest contributions towards the increase in Portugal’s export and an excellent project for helping the country out of a crisis.  

In what stage is the project?

The project is at an advanced mobilisation, site assembly and planning stage. The resources we are gathering set records in Porto and Setúbal and shall be the project we ever did with the highest amount of equipment and people. However, given our presence in Malawi for many years, it is possible to plan the activities considering in advance the work schedule, which results in the construction works being carried out 36 days before the original work schedule.  

Is there an opportunity to develop projects in Malawi or other markets with Vale?

Nowadays, Mota-Engil is greatly trusted by Vale, allowing for us to aspire to other opportunities whether in Malawi or other African countries, or even in America. I should also emphasise that this has been the greatest work awarded for VALE which has only affected a sole company outside of Brazil and it is VALE’s first project in Africa.

Therefore, this is a good example of Mota-Engil’s trustworthiness before its clients in what is also the most difficult section of the entire Corridor, which only a company like Mota-Engil is capable of carrying out, being such an expert on Malawi.
Now, our knowledge of other markets where Vale intends to invest is quite big, therefore this may not be a unique project, but the first of many more.
Do you feel that, with this contract, Mota-Engil has gone up a notch regarding works to be developed for the big worlwide mining companies? 
Obviously. This project and its clients are a calling card for the Mota-Engil name, placing it on the company radar for executing sizeable works in Africa.

This “going up a notch” towards the mega projects, allows for Mota-Engil to prove itself as a strong candidate for other mining, as well as energy and infrastructure projects planned for Sub-Saharan Africa.

We are also looking at some invitations to other projects, clients and countries.
However, we are creating our path step by step, so today it is essential for us to build section 3 in Nacala Corridor with the same brilliance, professionalism and rigour that characterise Mota-Engil.