Maritime Authority pleas ignored by senior delegation
The introduction of new and irregular procedures at ports in Djibouti are causing “unnecessary delays” in Ethiopia’s international trade, according to a report from the Ministry of Transport and Logistics. The volume of import cargo and railway freight transportation over the last six months exhibit worrying shortfalls.
The Ministry’s half-year report reveals only three-quarters of a targeted 1,300 tons of freight was moved via the Ethio-Djibouti Railway due to “serious complications and delays being caused in Djibouti, particularly since September 2023.”
Cargo ships spend 11.5 days docked at ports in Djibouti on average – much longer than the worldwide average of three days for the largest container ships.
Ethiopia imported 8.7 million tons of cargo over the last six months, with half a million tons of goods and commodities flowing the other way. More than 95 percent of the cargo passed through Djibouti, while 2.75 percent (primarily coal imports) moved via Tadjourah, and 1.78 percent through Berbera.
The bulk of the imports was moved from Djibouti to Ethiopia using trucks, while the Railway transported 14.65 percent of the total. The containerization mandate stands at 60 percent.
Officials at the Ethiopian Maritime Authority (EMA) branch in Djibouti blame “unnecessary and irregular” procedures introduced by Djiboutian authorities for delays.
“In recent months, they have been refusing to process Ethiopian cargo with an invoice of less than 25,000 dollars,” an EMA official told The Reporter. “They have been rejecting any cargo falling below this threshold. As long as the Ethiopian government has approved it for transit, they have the mandate to facilitate it, but they are refusing to. This is creating serious complications.”
The official told The Reporter the problem has been growing worse over the last month.
It is amidst this atmosphere that senior Ethiopian officials traveled to Djibouti this week to evaluate the performance of the Ethio-Djibouti Railway and approve plans for 2024.
The delegation included Ahmed Shide – minister of Finance, Alemu Sime (PhD) – minister of Transport and Logistics, Habtamu Tegegn (Eng.) – minister of Mines, and other officials on the board of the state-owned Railway Corporation.
Hassan Hammoud, Djibouti’s minister of Infrastructure and Equipment, received the high-profile guests.
Habtamu was elected as the Railway’s new board director, taking the helm from Ahmed Shide, who had served in the position for the six years since the Railway was established.
The board reviewed a performance report covering the Railway’s total lifespan, and shareholders (Ethiopia and Djibouti) concluded the meeting with a positive outlook, saying a conducive environment has been created to make the Railway sustainable.
To the chagrin of EMA officials, there is no record of discussions between the delegation and Djiboutian authorities on the delays or new cargo procedures in Djibouti.
“We compiled reports regarding the problems on Djibouti’s side and forwarded them to the [Ethiopian] officials, for discussion during the meeting,” an EMA official told The Reporter. We wanted the irregularities to be addressed. However, they would not raise the issue even on the sidelines of the meeting.”
The official believes the Ethiopian Customs Commission should have been involved in the meeting to speak up on the cargo delays.