29.03.2021. In the North of the Republic of Congo, the ecological transition is successful. As soon as the season allows and the water level is suitable, INTERHOLCO's flagship product, "Sustainable Hardwood - Made in Africa", is transported down the Sangha, a tributary of the Congo River.
Bossé, Kanda, Tali, Kosipo, Wengé, conventional or container shipping... the river convoy comprises a pusher and several barges, seven on average in 2020. The wood is inspected on site in Ngombé, before sailing from the North of the Equator all the way down to Brazzaville, a distance of about 800 km. For safety reasons, it is necessary to stop after dark and, in difficult passages, the staff have to split the convoy in order to cross rapids or go around sandbanks. A one-way trip takes an average of fourteen days, depending on the water level.
With 13,450 km of navigable waterways, the Congo River and its tributaries naturally and historically serve the provinces of the Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic.
Transport in Central Africa has always been a challenge due to the difficult terrain and climatic conditions. Much of the Congo Basin is inaccessible by any means other than river navigation.
Fishing and transport activities take place on the water. The pirogues, traditionally carved from Wenge logs, a species particularly suited to this use, highlight the strong relationship between forest, wood and water.
One of the difficulties of the economic viability of the river is the climatic variability, which leads to severe low water levels. The Sangha experiences a total navigation halt for 3 to 4 months a year due to the dry season.
The promises of inland navigation should not be underestimated: to avoid the hazards of road transport (weight restrictions, poor road conditions, etc.), to consume less fuel per year, to cause fewer CO2 emissions...
On average, 30% of the wood produced by INTERHOLCO is shipped through the Sangha, or 22,000 m3 per year. It would take the equivalent of more than 1,000 trucks to transport the same volumes by road, not to mention the significant disadvantages in terms of impact on infrastructure and pollution.
INTERHOLCO's share of inland waterway transport increased from 7% to 30% between 2017 and 2020.
Between 2018 and 2020, INTERHOLCO also increased from 3% to 82% the volume of wood transported from Brazzaville to Pointe-Noire using the Chemin de Fer Congo-Océan (CFCO) railway line, covering a 500 km distance.
Since 2020, all logs and containers transported on the Sangha River are reloaded in Brazzaville to Pointe-Noire by rail, which further reduces environmental impact.
Knowing that one wagon of conventional lumber is equivalent to 2.5 trucks, the objective this year is to increase the share of rail transport, in order to limit our environmental impact as much as possible.
Managing logistics with dynamism and professionalism allows us to make the right choices by linking cost control and CO2 impact. That is why INTERHOLCO is focusing on intermodal transport, more specifically on a river-rail alliance.
Photos © INTERHOLCO, except photo of pirogues © Molly Bergen / WCS
INTERHOLCO offers Sustainable Hardwood 'Made in Africa' as a responsible solution to promote better living conditions (construction with wood), reduce climate change, and increase social justice. As FSC-certified producer specialized in producing and trading logs, sawn timber, glued laminated scantlings and other products, INTERHOLCO manages the entire chain, from forest to customers since 1962. Harvesting wood selectively, INTERHOLCO protects 1.1 million hectares of natural forest from permanent conversion to agricultural land, giving 16’000 local inhabitants access to quality basic services and keeping the habitat of thousands of gorillas and elephants.
Communications contact INTERHOLCO
Tullia Baldassarri Höger von Högersthal
INTERHOLCO AG, Schutzengelstr. 36, 6340 Baar, Switzerland
Tel.: +41 (0)41 767 03 82