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Kisangani Convoy And The Balenieres Of The Congo

The second longest river in the world, the Congo River's flow is only marginally less than that of the mighty Amazon. Stretching halfway across southern Africa the Congo has long served as a crucial trade route through some of the most impenetrable terrain on earth. Currently, WFP is involved with several operations along the river. Below, we highlight two of those activities.

In 2008 WFP DRC received funding to implement a river transport service in the Congolese province of Equator. A $300,000.00 contract was signed with Caritas to build 3 boats (balenieres) that would transport food and NFIs for WFP and the humanitarian community to different isolated areas of Equator. Caritas will manage the river transport service and invoice users on a cost recovery basis. The first boat started its voyage on October 30th, 2009 with 29 metric tonnes (MT) of food for a cooperating partner in Bolomba, a town northeast of the main Equator city of Mbandaka. The custom built boats made the roughly 650km trip in only five days with no delays.

The following week a convoy consisting of seven barges and two pushers left Kinshasa en route to Kisangani. It was an impressive convoy at 500 meters long and 16 meters wide, with a total of 1580 horsepower to move it up the river. It carried 2500 MT of various goods including 14 containers transported on behalf of the Mission de l'Organisation des Nations Unies en République démocratique du Congo (MONUC) and 6,736 cartons (81 MT) of school books for four educational districts in the Orientale province.

This was the first time WFP DRC moved goods for MONUC and the World Bank funded book program. That convoy arrived yesterday, Nov 19th, making the 1500km journey in 15 days. WFP recently signed a field level agreement (FLA) with the UN mission in DRC for the provision of logistics and procurement services. With the FLA in place WFP anticipates increased traffic on the Kinshasa-Kisangani barge route. The growing number of humanitarian groups working in Orientale province are also heightening demand for the service. Both the balenieres and convoys are much needed services in this region and with increased needs the vessels will remain a common sight on the river for some time to come.




Pushers in position behind the convoy. Copyright: TFCE/Matheos Phillis




Preparing for departure. Copyright: TFCE/Matheos Phillis




Convoy en route to Kisangani. Copyright: TFCE/Matheos Phillis




The position of the convoy is tracked on daily basis on Google Earth.



Special thanks to the WFP DRC country office!