Foreigners dominate bids

Chinese, Indian, Turkish, Spanish, Portuguese, Botswana and South African firms are among those in line to rake in billion-dollar Namibian tenders.

26 February 2019 | Infrastructure

A total of 25 companies have been shortlisted for the construction and upgrade of the Walvis Bay-Kranzberg railway line and the construction of a new road to Hosea Kutako International Airport.

A Chinese firm, China Harbor Engineering Company, was shortlisted for both projects.

It submitted a joint bid with local company Roadhart CC for the rail project. The other local company to be selected for the rail project is D&M Rail. It submitted a joint bid with China Jiangxi and China Henan.

Only two local companies were shortlisted for the airport road project - NCR and Top International Engineering Namibia. The other companies shortlisted include Portuguese, Spanish and Indian firms, while 12 Chinese companies complete the list.

In total 16 firms were shortlisted for the airport road and nine for the railway project, with 17 Chinese companies featuring either as sole bidders or in joint ventures with others. D&M Rail Construction was appointed in 2014 by TransNamib to rehabilitate the Kranzberg-Tsumeb railway line in a deal worth N$200 million, The Namibian reported.

The African Development Bank (AfDB) initially required companies to have an average turnover of N$631 million, which effectively excluded local firms. Companies were also required to have a monthly cash flow of N$53 million.

These requirements were relaxed after finance minister Calle Schlettwein intervened.

Roads Authority CEO Conrad Lutombi would not comment when approached for comment.

Works ministry executive director Willem Goeiemann told Namibian Sun that the process of selecting a contractor was still ongoing.

“We are not done yet, we have not even briefed the ministers. The process is not complete,” Goeiemann said briefly.

Both projects are being partially funded by the African Development Bank through a N$2 billion loan granted in December 2017.

Last year the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) asked the government to lobby the AfDB to relax the requirements set for the two tenders.

“The tender requirements... are of such a nature that they automatically preclude all Namibian contractors,” said CIF general secretary Bärbel Kirchner.

The upgrading of the railway track between Walvis Bay and Kranzberg would speed up freight and passenger traffic.

The current railway, of Cape Gauge standard, was last upgraded in the 1960s and, in its current condition with speed restrictions, is an infrastructure bottleneck, resulting in increased transport costs.

After improvement, freight trains will be able to travel at up to 80 km/h and passengers will enjoy speeds of up to 100 km/h. The rail upgrading will be done over three years.

As for the planned airport road, a new dual carriageway with two lanes in each direction, which will incorporate an option for a third lane in the future, will be constructed over a period of 42 months. The existing road will be retained as an alternative to service local traffic.

The Chinese government has granted N$10 billion in infrastructure funding to the Namibian government through its Belt and Road initiative. If taken up by the government, a portion of that would finance the planned upgrading of Hosea Kutako International Airport.


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