Chad Table of Contents
As a landlocked state, Chad has no ports. The nearest ports were all located on the Atlantic Ocean. Douala, Cameroon, at 1,700 kilometers from N'Djamena was the closest port. Furthermore, there were no railroads in the country. Two ancient land routes connected Chad to the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. The first, more than 3,000 kilometers across difficult desert tracks, led north to Benghazi, Libya. The second, to the Red Sea via Sudan to Port Sudan, was 2,600 kilometers from Abéché and 3,350 kilometers from N'Djamena. Neither route has been used for commercial traffic in modern times. There were only two Atlantic routes of commercial importance in the 1970s and 1980s. One was the Nigerian railconnected routes to Port Harcourt or Lagos via Maiduguri; the other was the Cameroonian route to Douala via rail from Ngaoundéré. Because of Nigeria's internal political difficulties and its troubled relations with its neighbors, the Nigerian route was intermittently closed to Chadian traffic in the 1980s, leaving open only the Cameroonian route to surface traffic into and out of Chad.
Until 1985 there was no permanent bridge across the Chari River to N'Djamena. Access to N'Djamena from Kousséri, Cameroon, was by ferry. When water levels fell during the drought of 1984 and 1985, ferries sometimes were unable to make the crossing. To alleviate this problem, in 1985 a pontoon bridge was constructed over the Chari River. A similar situation existed farther south where, in 1986, a bridge was constructed at Léré, across the Mayo-Kebbi River. This bridge replaced ferry transport, formerly the only means of crossing, and linked southern Chad with Cameroon.
The closest rail links to Chad were the Nigerian rail system from Maiduguri to the ports of Lagos and Port Harcourt and the Cameroon system from Ngaoundéré to Douala. Both were connected to Kousséri in Cameroon, across the Chari River from N'Djamena, via all-weather roads, then on to Chad via the bridge over the Chari (see fig. 8).
The country's external traffic amounted to some 350,000 tons per year in the mid-1980s. For the most part, this traffic was carried on the road and rail route to Douala via Ngaoundéré. A great part of this traffic did not leave Chad via the capital. Chad's largest export, ginned cotton, took routes directly from the southern region to Cameroon via Léré (Chad) and Garoua (Cameroon) before reaching the rail at Ngaoundéré. Petroleum products were imported entirely by road, whether from Cameroon or from Nigeria.
As a member of the Customs Union of Central African States (Union Douanière des Etats d'Afrique Centrale--UDEAC), Chad exported and imported goods through a free storage area at Douala. The facility was completed in 1985 with funding from the EC and served both Chad and Central African Republic. The facility permitted long-term storage of goods exported from or imported into Chad. Agreements with Cameroon under UDEAC auspices allowed reductions of 50 percent on port taxes and of 25 percent on the total charged for handling costs. A quota for rail transport was also established whereby Chadian importers and exporters paid only 65 percent of rail charges to transport their goods and the remaining 35 percent was assumed by Cameroon.
Data as of December 1988