WINDHOEK - Given the massive volumes of trucks and their heavy cargoes that utilise the Walvis Bay Corridor between the port of Walvis Bay and Zambia, the Walvis Bay Corridor Group (WBCG) has reiterated the great importance of the costly maintenance of Namibia’s roads.
On a daily basis fleets of trucks laden with copper can be seen on the Trans-Caprivi Highway transporting Zambia’s main economic lifeline, and equally trucks heading to Zambia, Tanzania, DRC and Malawi, shipping through Walvis Bay, can be seen heading to Wenela border post near Katima Mulilo.
The WBCG estimates that between 2017 and 2018 about 36,000 tons of cargo were carried by roughly 15,000 trucks per month on this crucial road network that links Namibia’s landlocked neighbours to global markets.
Truck and cargo volumes on the corridor have steadily been increasing over the years as Namibia’s objective as a regional logistics hub gains momentum.
Namibia’s roads are generally recognised as some of the best in Africa, which is testament to the government’s continued efforts in maintenance and creation of new roads through the Roads Authority (RA).
RA recently launched its five-year strategic plan that has a distinct focus on maintenance as well as programs to expand the country’s road network.
These programs are also duly covered under national programs like NDP 5 and the Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP).
“Maintenance on any infrastructure is of great importance and our road network is no exception. Namibia has an ambitious program to position herself as regional logistics hub, which has a multitude of economic spinoffs for the country and the region,” Clive Smith, the acting CEO of the WBCG, informed New Era upon inquiry.
“It is thus important that whilst we advocate for and attract more volumes on our roads, that we equally ensure a robust maintenance and upgrade program.”
Responding to questions by New Era, Smith noted there are mechanisms in place to collect funding through road user fees, including for trucks, which is then redeployed towards maintenance of the road network. These are through various user fees managed by RA and the Road Fund Administration (RFA).
He said the Namibia Logistics Hub Project requires a number of short, medium and long-term interventions covering all modes of transport. Said Smith: “The potential economic benefit for Namibia cannot be underscored as transport and logistics serve as a catalyst for other economic sectors, like agriculture, manufacturing and mining. During formation of the Namibia Logistics Master Plan these conditions were all brought to the fore and all stakeholders, including our road sector, has aligned programs to contribute towards the realisation of these ambitious programs.”
“The transport sector, under the Ministry of Works and Transport, continued to operate under a coordinate approach to ensure that the modes of transport can respond to the increasing business within SADC.”
Meanwhile, RA spokesperson Hileni Fillemon noted that by the very nature of their weight, heavy trucks would cause damage even when loaded within legally permissible limits.
“It has been established that when about 85 percent of trucks are legally loaded, they would still cause about 40 percent of damage to the road infrastructure. As little as 15 percent overloaded trucks would cause about 60 percent of the damage. The solution is to prevent or reduce overloading to the very minimal in order to reduce maintenance cost,” said Fillemon.
She added that damage caused by legally loaded vehicles can only be mitigated through the payment of road user charges, such as mass distance charges, in order to ensure that transporters pay for the extra weight on their heavy vehicles and the damage this causes to the country’s roads.
“Namibia’s overload statistics is one of the best in Southern Africa with punishable overload kept at lower levels of one percent or less,” said Fillemon.