Egypt’s National River Port Management Company (NRPMC) has signed a five-year contract to transport up to two million tonnes of wheat each year along the river Nile with the local General Company for Silos and Storage.

The NRPMC is Egypt’s main operator of river ports and won the contract in 2008 to operate the Tanash port, which is 20km north of Cairo for 15 years.

The NRPMC has invested more than $3m to upgrade facilities at the 27,500 square-metre port, which began operations in late 2009. It is able to handle two million tonnes of grain and other bulk material each year and 110,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs).

Nile Cargo, the sister company of NRPMC, will operate 30 barges to move an expected 750,000 tonnes of wheat in 2010 to silos and mills across the country.

The firm is currently building 62 new river barges with the first one to come into operation in mid-2010.

The vessels will be able to handle containers, dry bulk and general cargo. Nile Cargo expects to transport more than 10 million tonnes of goods each year along the Nile by 2015 as more vessels are added to the fleet.

The NRPMC is currently developing four new river ports in order to cope with the growing demand.

The new ports include Tebbin, which is 15km south of Cairo, a port 2km south of Alexandria on the Nubaria Canal and Beni Suef and Minya in Upper Egypt.

Plans are also under way to develop further river ports in Assiut and Aswan that will connect the country’s port network from north to south.

Officials at the NRPMC say transporting wheat on river barges will save the country up to 20 per cent of what it would have spent transporting it by road.