However, the small port town is now venturing out to a new business that is coastal recreation.
With the presence of large landlocked nations in East Africa, sea-outlets like the Port of Djibouti and Mombasa serve the majority of population at the moment. In that, Port Berbera is among the hopefuls to be another major outlet. But, the port, as it is at moment, needs a lot of work to have it ready to offer a standard service. The government of Somaliland had long planned to nurture the port. However, until it it is ready, the coastal town is making preparations to sell its sandy beaches and favorable weather condition. Mohamud Hashi Abdi, minister of Civil Aviation and Air Transport, told The Reporter that it is time to promote Berbera as a recreational place for the rising middle class in Ethiopia. “We have to draw in the Ethiopian middle class to the recreational facilities of Berbera,” Mohamud said.
According to him, resuming regular flights to Berbera, which is part of the reason why the minister was in Addis, is also an important part of promoting the town as a tourist destination. For that reason, Mohamud held discussions with officials of the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority and Ethiopian Airlines on the issue of resuming the Berbera flight. Ethiopian used to fly to Berbera some years back. Back then, Ethiopian landed in Berbera because the main airport located at the capital city Hargiesa was under construction. According to the minister, Berbera served for about one year before all Ethiopian flights were moved to Hargiesa. “The Berbera flight is also expected to serve our eastern Somaliland passengers well,” Mohamud explained, “on top of serving potential tourists from Ethiopia”.
Furthermore, the minister told The Reporter that some airport security issues which were raised in association with the Hargiesa and Berbera airports have been addressed permanently. He said, his government has made considerable investment on upgrading airport security facilities.
“We have fitted new x-ray machines, firetrucks and modern immigration system to solve the security issues.” He further noted that during the part six month, no single “illegal traveler” was discovered on the Hargiesa-Addis flight, and Mohamud said, this is a big achievement in this regard. In general, the minister says that both airports are complying with the standards of airport security and that this was accepted by Ethiopian and the other airlines.
“We might not be comparable with beaches like Mombasa, but we are selling our peace and stability, clean beautiful beaches and weather,” he says.
Apart from coastal recreation, the Ethiopian market is far more important to the port of Berbera. And the minister also said that it is a project that is of utmost importance. Some 72 percent of the Somaliland government revenue comes from the customs activities on port Berbera and the task of renovating and overhauling the port facilities is urgent. In fact, as it stands at the moment, the port is only 620 meters long which needs large-scale expansion to have it ready for use.
“It needs to get 10 times bigger than what it is at the moment,” he said. And this is where things have taken time to happen. The government is in the process of selecting a company that would be in charge of the overhaul project and running the port operations once it has finished expansion. According to the minister, negotiations are under way with various companies where Bollore Africa Logistics, a French port and logistic giant and DP World, an Emirati port operation company, currently handling the Port of Djibouti, are front runners.