Disagreement is brewing between officials in the
marine sector in Ethiopia and Djibouti over the use
of the Port of Djibouti, and whether or not
Ethiopia's flagship carrier should continue to pay
security fees, reliable sources disclosed to
The management of the Port of Djibouti, DP World,
has rejected a request made three months ago by the
Ethiopian Shipping Lines (ESL) to be granted a
dedicated access to two of the 15 berths at the
Port. The two berths ESL showed strong interest in
are berths number one and two, which were handling
containers, fitted with two gantry cranes.
Signed by Jerome M. Oliveira, chief executive
officer (CEO) of the Port of Djibouti, the letter DP
World wrote on June 21, 2009, says it "would not be
possible for Djibouti Port to honour" ESL's request.
Ambachew Abraha, managing director of the ESL, first
made his request when he met Aden Ahmed Douale,
chairman of the Djibouti Ports and Free Zones
Authority, in March 2009; he had expressed his
company's desire to lease the container terminal at
the Port of Djibouti, these sources disclosed. He
subsequently wrote a letter to Douale three days
after their meeting in Djibouti, including a request
to be waived from security fees ESL pays per
container, which is close to six dollars, according
to these sources.
ESL request is followed the completion of a brand
new port at Doraleh, which incorporates both oil and
container terminals. Consuming a total investment of
400 million dollars, the investment raised from the
Dubai based DP World, Doraleh is built 13Km east of
the Port of Djibouti to earn a reputation as the
largest in East Africa; it can handle 1.2 million
containers (20ft) annually.
DP World Djibouti has made a decision to move all
operations related to container handling to the
terminal at Doraleh, leaving the old port to the
operations of general cargoes. Nevertheless, ESL
managers argue that their vessels are multipurpose
in character, including Ro/Ro (carrying vehicles),
general as well as bulk cargoes. They claim that
going back and forth between the new and old port
facilities would subject them to additional costs.
Of Ethiopia's 4.8 million tonnes import and exports
of goods in 2008, up from 3.9 million tonnes in
2006, ESL brings an average of 20,000 containers.
"Ethiopian Shipping Lines container handling
activities will be done in Doraleh Container
Terminal (DCT) as from July 1, 2009," says the
letter. "The General Cargo/Roro will be discharged
and loaded in Djibouti Port without prejudice of
shifting cost when ESL's containers will be
discharged previously at DCT."
The management of DP World says allowing ESL to have
berths dedicated to its container operations would
deny Djibouti Port the "flexibility" for further
development and investments; and the contract signed
between the management firm, lenders and the
government of Djibouti, requires all "container
activities must be transferred" to the new container
terminal at Doraleh.
Although inaugurated in February 2009, it was at the
beginning of this month vessel operators were told
to discharge all their containers at Doraleh. One of
the largest ship operators, Messina Liner, was told
to use the new container terminal as of July 1,
2009. This notice has not been made to ESL yet,
sources disclosed. Nor have any of the nine vessels
owned by ESL arrived at the Port; there was only
Shebelle, with 5,000tns of cement bought from
Pakistan, that has called Djibouti last week.
"But the bulk cargo it carries couldn't tell us
whether the new notice applies on us," said a senior
manager at the ESL.
Oliveir has also informed ESL in his letter that the
Port Authority of Djibouti will continue to check
incoming containers for security purposes. ESL had
argued that since all the containers are certified
for having gone through security checks upon
departure, subjecting containers it brings to
searches incurs it to double charges.
But ESL managers are infuriated more with the form
of the exchange of letters than the substance,
reliable sources disclosed. Although their letter
was addressed to officials of the Djibouti
government, the response came from the CEO installed
by DP World, a foreign firm awarded a management
"This makes us question who responsible in Djibouti
is to discuss with Ethiopia," said one senior
Managers of DP World Djibouti have not responded to
questions emailed from Fortune.