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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Ethiopia - Berbera, Port Sudan become handy alternatives

(Medeshi)- For two years, the Ethiopian Maritime Affairs Authority (EMAA) was commissioning a national logistics strategy which among other things incorporated a well laid out plan to develop ports in foreign soils; mostly in Somaliland and the Sudan. And now, the authority is getting ready to implement this strategy.
Berbera port ( Web image)


Busy setting up a national platform for the long-awaited logistics strategy, Mekonnen Abera, director general of EMAA, is planning to set up a national task force which is pooled from professionals of the authority and various stakeholders in the sector. On a Forum that was held on Wednesday at Ghion Hotel, Mekonnen lengthily discussed the needs of establishing a nationwide logistics strategy. The newly designed strategy is expected to address the poor logistic services in country. 

Developing ports in other countries for the landlocked Ethiopia, Mekonnen says, is one of the potentials to explore to ease the logistic congestion which has stifled the country’s foreign trade sector for many years. However, he declined to mention in which neighboring country the strategy plans to do develop the ports. Despite the fact that Ethiopia relays on the Port of Djibouti to handle some 95 percent of its foreign trade turnover, Mekonnen noted that Somaliland and the Sudan could serve as a good alternative outlet to the country. Mekonnen said that Berebera Port of Somaliland and Port Sudan of the Sudan are providing limited port use services to Ethiopia recently. Few weeks ago, Port Sudan has moved some 50 thousand tons of fertilizer which made ways to the Amhara Regional State, according to Mekonnen. He went on to say, the long distance that is a primary disadvantage for the alternate ports compared to the Port of Djibouti is somehow compensated for by reduced port handling fees. The Sudanese trucks way further have axel load capacity of 75 to 100 tons each which again is to be considered as the upper hand against the local trucks’ axel load capacity of maximum of 40 tons, Mekonnen said. 

Hence, the country is committed to look at some other trade corridors in addition to the Port of Djibouti, the sole outlet to Ethiopia currently. It is to be noted that the landlocked Ethiopia was looking at an alternative seaports other than Somaliland and Sudan, mainly some of Kenya’s ports to distribute the 95 percent load carried by the Port of Djibouti. 

During the meeting, state-owned agencies like that of Ethiopian Grain Trade Enterprise has raised security concerns with respect to both Berbera Port and Port of Sudan. Representing the enterprise, Mersha Tsegaye, was curious to know how Ethiopia would look to partner with Somaliland and Sudan for seaport use in light of the security concerns raised in the meeting. Mekonnen assured stakeholders that high level officials have already worked out that sort of concerns.

In addition to developing and accessing alternative ports, the logistics strategy is likely to reconsider and scrutinize the newly formed amalgamation of the Ethiopian Shipping and Logistics Services Enterprise from three enterprises: Ethiopian Shipping Lines; Dry Ports Enterprise; and the Ethiopian Maritime and Transit Enterprise. Mekonnen has hinted that the monopoly that the new amalgamation possesses would seriously be evaluated. According to Mekonnen, the monopoly power bestowed upon the flag carrier needs to be look at further; which is to mean if need be privatized or run by private operators. 

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) sponsored and the much anticipated national logistics strategy is planned to be operational this year.  However, according to World Bank’s report, Ethiopia operates one of the poorly managed and unreliable logistics sectors in world, which takes some 44 days for export and/or import handling. Mokennen rebuffed the report saying that it is highly opinionated piece although he has not come up with substantive figures to back his claim.
The reporter