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CONGO RIVER: The deepest river in the world

PortandTerminal.com, December 2, 2019

KINSHASA, CONGO – The deepest river in the world is the Congo River in Africa. At its deepest point, it reaches a depth of 720 feet. That makes it almost five times deeper than Sydney Harbour, the deepest natural harbor in the world.

Of course, neither the Congo River or Sydney Harbour measure their maximum depth throughout their entire length. On average, Sydney Harbour is 43 feet deep. On average, the Congo River varies in depth between 33 feet to 262 feet along its length of 3,000 miles. But by any measure, the Congo River is amazingly deep for a river.

With a maximum depth of 197 feet, the world’s deepest natural harbor, Sydney Harbor, is just a puddle compared to The Congo River’s maximum depth of 720 feet.

One side note that gives some insight into the speed of the currents in the Congo River; Biologists especially love the lower Congo because it’s the first place they’ve ever found animal populations that are divided not by mountains or oceans, but by river currents.  That’s right. The water moves so fast along the lower Congo that in some places entirely different species of fish evolve on the two banks because impenetrable currents divide their habitats. 

Travelling on the Congo River

The Congo River is the main transportation source in Central Africa. The river along with all the streams that lead into it provides over 9,000 miles of navigable shipping routes in Central Africa.

Barges traverse the river like floating villages crowded with up to 2,000 people, mainly traders and their goods, from bags of sorghum to barrels of palm oil. Overcrowding of vessels is a way of life, and too often a way of death on the Congo River. The boats traversing Congo’s rivers are often in poor repair and fatal accidents are commonplace.

The river is divided into three navigable parts, of which we’ll only spend time discussing one here.

The first navigable section is from the mouth of the river at the Atlantic to Matadi where there are a wharf and port. Matadi is situated on the left bank of the Congo River, 92 mi from the mouth and 5.0 mi below the last navigable point before the rapids that make the river impassable for a long stretch upriver. Seagoing vessels are able to navigate this stretch of the river. Founded in 1879, Matadi has a population of 245 thousand people.

In February of this year, the ICTSI Matadi Gateway Terminal hosted its first call by a gearless container ship, the 2,500-TEU Safmarine Nuba.

Beyond Matadi there is a stretch of about 200 miles that is basically impassable and is best covered by rail. The remaining two sections of the river, which stretch for over 2,000 miles, are partially navigable by smaller vessels.

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