Mauritania Table of Contents
Figure 9. Transportation System, 1987
Nouakchott's Friendship Port built by China
Courtesy Embassy of Mauritania, Washington
The developed transportation network centered on the mining and fishing industries. The country's only railroad, a 650- kilometer-long line, connected the Zouîrât mines with Nouadhibou (see fig. 9). Both the railroad and the ore port were operated by SNIM. The port had the capacity to handle bulk ore carriers of up to 150,000 tons, and the railroad carried some of the world's longest and heaviest trains (see Mining , this ch.). Nouadhibou was the country's only natural deep-water port and, in addition to the ore port, contained a separate commercial and fishing port. The fishing port was upgraded in 1983 under a US$8 million World Bank loan.
In late 1986, the US$150 million Friendship Port at Nouakchott was officially opened. Financed and built by China, the 500,000-ton-per-year deep-water port was an engineering feat, as the Chinese laborers had to contend with strong Atlantic currents and waves up to six meters high. The port was expected to eliminate the need to divert 35 to 40 percent of Nouakchott's traffic through Dakar, Senegal, and to reduce the high percentage of goods lost during transshipment from ships at anchorage. Despite the official opening, by late 1987 the new port was not yet in service because it still lacked certain facilities and equipment.
In the late 1980s, Mauritania's total road network was estimated at 9,000 kilometers. Only 1,500 kilometers of roadway were paved; the roadway consisted mainly of two trunk roads. The remaining roads were little more than tracks on the sand. Road construction had been a high priority for Mauritania's planners in the 1970s. The chief project at that time was the US$300 million, 1,000-kilometer Nouakchott-Néma Road (also called the Trans-Mauritanian Highway), financed largely through loans from Arab members of OPEC. But because the road was constructed through the desert north of the populated agricultural region along the Senegal River, additional major funding was later needed to link the southern towns of Bogué and Kaédi to the capital via this largely unused trunk road. Moreover, projected recurrent costs for maintenance of the Nouakchott-Néma Road were well above the government's foreseeable budgetary means. Mauritania's other major surfaced road connected the capital to Akjoujt and Rosso.
Airports at Nouakchott and Nouadhibou were capable of handling commercial jet aircraft. In 1986 the French were conducting studies to expand the airport at Nouakchott to handle Boeing 747s and comparable aircraft, and the European Development Fund was financing an automatic communications center at the airport. In the mid-1980s, the capital was served by Air Afrique, Iberia, Royal Air Maroc, and Union des Transports Aériens (UTA), including twice-weekly direct flights to Paris and six weekly flights to Dakar, where links were available for direct flights to New York three times a week. Internal flights were available between the capital and Nouadhibou and some thirty smaller airports. The national airline, Air Mauritanie, operated two eighty-seat Fokker F-28 passenger airliners for domestic flights and for flights to Dakar and Las Palmas.
In 1985 radiotelephone and wireless telegraph services linked Nouakchott to Paris, to most regional capitals, and to other towns in Mauritania. In 1986 the government began operating earth satellite stations in Nouakchott and Nouadhibou. The system linked Mauritania to the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (INTELSAT) network and the Arab Satellite Telecommunications Organization (ARABSAT) network. It provided ninety telephone or telegraph circuits and a link for television reception and transmission.
Data as of June 1988
Mauritania Table of Contents