Beira Port & City Tour

Unfortunately Esther caught a bug last evening and she woke up very sick this morning. Originally she had plans to go around the city with us and show us her favorite places in Beira, but due to her sickness we had to cancel those plans.

The room we stayed in was absolutely beautiful and very spacious. Beira is a charming little city that still feels and moves like a Portuguese colony. The stairs up to Esther’s flat are covered in potted plants and trees line the cobblestone streets outside. Beira is by far the most charming city we have visited in Africa, thank you Portugal.

Esther and her brother do not speak English so I was able to practice my Portuguese a lot with them throughout the two days that we were in their home. Last evening I was able to pull together our plans for today, which included a visit to the Beira port and a tour of Care for Life’s villages in the surrounding areas.

My friend Joao was able to buy us in contact with the Stake President of the area, Freeman, who agreed to pick us up early in the morning and take us to the port. We are staying in a part of town called Ponta Gea, the old colonial residential area of town. We walked down the tree-covered, cobblestoned street past beautiful old colonial houses until we reached the old spiral catholic cathedral where Freeman was waiting for us. We hopped in his car and headed for the Port. Both Freeman and his wife she work at the port, one with investments and the other in logistics. Each day 5-10 new ships arrive in the harbor carrying goods from all around the world. 

Beira’s main imports include rice from Pakistan, wheat from Texas, fertilizer from Asia, an used clothes from Europe. Most of the shipping vessels are manned by crew from Thailand with a captain from Greece. These ships come into port and drop off their goods before moving onto their next port or destination. The East African shipping route includes the Ports in Durban, South Africa, Maputo, Mozambique, Beira Mozambique, and Dar, Tanzania. The ships then route to Chennai India and Singapore before returning to Africa.

Beira’s main exports include cowpeas and coal from Mozambique, cotton and marble from Zimbabwe, copper from Zambia, and sugar and tobacco from Malawi. These items are shipped mainly to India, China, and Europe. Mozambique does ship some prawns and bananas to the USA. They call this green logistics because they have to pick their produce green and keep their fish fresh as they ship it for 25 days across the world.

We were at the port for over two hours and we learned a lot. We also learned that the largest port in the United States is in Long Beach, California which mean we should get very good prices on all our goods.  

Joao picked us up from the port around 11:00 and we were off for the second part of our day. Before we left, Joao invited us to his home for Family Home Evening and dinner. We gladly accepted, and Andrew even offered to give the lesson.

Joao first took us to one of the villages that his organization works in. Care for life is an organization that focuses on tackling poverty from the wholistic level. They have key indicators that they strive to change with each family that they work with. Each family sets their own goals and is held accountable by an individual that follows-up with them every month. The organization is very similar to fundacao Paraguaya in South America.

After our excursion with Joao he helped us buy our bus ticket to Vilanculos and took us on a short tour of the city. He took us by the Beira Grand Hotel, which is now a giant slum that houses over 1000 families. It’s story is very famous as the Grand Hotel used to be the most lucrative and luxurious hotel in all of Southern Africa. The hotel was a popular spot for honeymooners from Portugal.

After we toured the city for a while, we asked Joao to drop us in the city center where we bought snacks and supplies for the following day. We enjoyed a beautiful walk home on the cobblestone and tree covered walkways. We arrived home with enough time to rest for a moment before we were picked up by president Freeman for Family Night that evening.

We arrived to a welcoming crowd of children and adults (I guess FHE is always a large family affair here). The table was also set for a delicious African meal. Andrew was called to give the lesson, which he did a great job on. I have found that Andrew has an incredible talent to teach in a way that grasps everyone’s attention in the room.

After FHE we sat down to enjoy a wonderful meal of Chapati, curried goat, salad, and beans. President Freeman served his mission in Uganda and Tanzania and brought the chapati tradition home with him after his mission. Since his mission him and his family have found Chapati to be there favorite family dinner staple (the first family I know who doesn’t love xima more than everything else). We left that evening having a greater appreciation for Family Home Evening and family dinner, both are very important in understanding how your family can become stronger each and every day.



(Below: Andrew’s post)

Kylie and I woke this morning to the bustling sounds of Beira coming to life. The morning also brought with it a degree of relief as I could finally pull the covers off my head to get some fresh air. I had thrown them over my head as a pseudo mosquito net since our room didn’t have one and Beira is infamous for malaria. Funny though, to a local catching malaria is no big deal. For the most part people go to the hospital for medication and move on with their lives.

Kylie and I got ready and walked down the street to meet with president Freeman, the stake president of the Beira stake. He works in the Beira port, one of the largest here in Africa and he was going to show us how a port functions.

The entire experience proved to be a rich learning experience as Kylie and I received a crash course in port management. 

60% of the port in Beira deals with cargo in transit to other regions of Africa while only 30% ends up being exported from Beira (much more imported goods than exported). This helps to explain the disparity in wealth as foreign nations attempt to produce for themselves other goods that would be imported.

The largest imports to Africa we learned are wheat, rice from Pakistan, and fertilizer. Whereas exports varied by country (Zimbabwe exports marble, Malawi tobacco and sugar, Zimbabwe also exports cotton, etc). 

As we drove around the port we could see the scale of production going on around us. 5 million tons of coal came through the port each year, along with 35,000 tons of sugar loaded into the hull of a large shipping liner. 

That was actually really interesting to watch. The vessel that was loading sugar (exported from Malawi) was going to the UK and would arrive in 20-25 days from the port. The sugar was loaded in large cargo bags that when they were machine craned over the vessel, were torn to release the sugar into the hull. When it arrives in the UK, a large vacuum sucks the sugar from the vessel and goes straight into production. They do this to reduce costs. Labor is cheap in Africa so that end of the supply chain is very man-power intensive (bagging the sugar in Malawi, loading them on trucks, driving them to port, loading the sugar on the vessel, cutting the sugar bags open, act) whereas to keep costs low, the foreign nations have automated the supply chain on their side.

We also learned how such a large port remains organized. Each shipping container is given a serial number and code so it can be quickly identified. Additionally, if the container contains hazardous or dangerous materials they are color-coded to notify the staff.

But the most interesting thing we learned (in my opinion) that I think you would be more interested to hear about was piracy of these large cargo vessels. We asked Freeman if it really was like captain Philips (movie about piracy near Somalia). He laughed and said he loves that movie (of course a guy working in a shopping port would love a movie about shipping ports and pirates). 

He told us that in 1000 ships, 20 would have an attempt made on the cargo (2%). Surprisingly high given all the precautions that are taken nowadays. In dangerous waters insurance drives up the cost of doing business. Companies shipping through pirate filled waters have to up the insurance of their vessels and cargo, but that means more expensive goods for consumers. Typically pirates hang around west Africa, Somalia, and Oman.

We also learned about how ships measure the cargo. Rather than weight it prior to birding, they have an equation for each vessel and each centimeter equals 1000 tons of goods on board. That means that a ship in Beira port, cleared for 10cm can carry 10,000 tons of cargo. And with 5 ships loading and departing each day, that makes for a lot of goods!

After meeting with president Freeman for a crash course in port dynamics we met with Joao, a more elderly member of the church who runs an organization called Care for Life.

He showed us a nearby village where his program was implemented and has experienced success. Kylie was particularly excited to meet one guy who started a business and had actually begun hiring people (a rare event for any small business in Africa). We spent a fair bit of time with the man and his employees asking them questions.

Since most of the conversation (all of it) was in Portuguese I didn’t get a whole lot from it, but I got the general idea of what they were doing and the impact the organization had on their lives. The two employees were both RMs and were quite friendly.

We spent the afternoon with Joao as he showed us around Beira and particularly the grand hotel in Beira.

The grand hotel used to be the most magnificent hotel in Beira, and was the biggest in all of Africa when the Portuguese still ruled Mozambique. When the Portuguese left, the entire hotel became a slum where over 1000 families live. Rachel and Dean back in Harare told us not to walk around the area so I was grateful Joao was willing to drive us.

It was an incredible sight to see the shell of the hotel. Outside was covered in little shacks and market stalls, and you could see laundry hanging from the various room balconies. The most memorable part of the structure however wasn’t its design or the transformation it underwent, but was the smell. For several meters surrounding the slum there was the hanging smell of something quite bile. 

Joao explained to us that the entire basement area of the hotel was filled with standing water, a breeding ground for mosquitos. I was sure the interior would’ve been quite the shocking experience had we entered.

The most dramatic lesson of the slum was the new development built nearly 50 meters away from the slum. The new development was modern and each unit had a private pool. Literally the wealthy of Beira were neighbors to the largest slum in Beira. It was quite a stark contrast.

After visiting the hotel, Joao dropped us off and Kylie and I walked around the city to familiarize ourselves with it. It didn’t take long to get orientated, and so we wove our way home to wait for FHE with president Freeman (he’d invited us before departing in the morning).

FHE has been abut of struggle for Kylie and I while traveling in Africa. The transient nature of our time here makes it more a date night than a proper family home evening meeting. So joining freeman and his family was really special. We had an opening hymn, prayer, scripture and j have the lesson before the kids proposed a game. It was so much fun and it was such a wonderful way to end our time in Beira.

During the dinner conversation I found something quite striking. Amalia, one of Rachel’s friends from Zimbabwe who lives in Beira (also coordinates church youth programs but in Mozambique) commented that it was ridiculous that someone would bolt and lock their doors and then not pray for safety. The way she spoke of the two actions it really was as if it was a ‘no duh’ toe of precaution to take. I reflected on my attitude and thought that I have much to learn from these African saints who clearly integrate the gospel I their everyday lives. It’s quite inspiring.

Tomorrow morning Kylie and I will get up at 2am to catch the bus to Vilankulos. Since it’s extremely early Freeman has offered to take us which is a huge blessing! 

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