By Yonas Abiye
The Ethiopian Maritime Affairs Authority (EMAA) announced that cargo services; transporting Ethiopian goods and commodities to and from the Eritrean Port, will official begin in two weeks by re-accessing the Port of Massawa.
The announcement has come a week after the Eritrean port authorities unveiled the restoration of the Port of Massawa.
The EMAA, a regulatory body on maritime related businesses with specific responsibilities to insure maritime accessibility and mobility of goods both in domestic and international waters, is also tasked with widening market opportunities in the maritime sector by providing exceptionally efficient, cost effective, safe, secure and environmentally compliant services.
Logistic Director to the authority, Temesgen Yihunie told The Reporter that a team of experts from the authority were dispatched to Eritrea this week and confirmed the newly restored port as ready for operations.
Eritrea’s two major ports, Port of Massawa in the north of the country and Port of Assab in the south, announced the completion of preliminary refurbishments and are ready to handle Ethiopia’s import and export cargos.
However, Temesgen told The Reporter that the other traditional port, Assab Port, is yet to be ready for the service since related access from the Ethiopian side is yet to be completed to enable a smooth route.
According to the director, among other things, the road that stretches to the Eritrean boarder needs to be upgraded since it has been unused for two decades.
Before the two countries went to war in 1998, the two ports were the main ports for Ethiopia. For the last 20 years the ports have become almost inactive, handling cargo for a country of only five million people under sanctions.
Up until now, Ethiopia landlocked since the war has been fully dependent on Djibouti.
Although a new Chinese-built railway connects Djibouti to Addis Ababa, the Red Sea/Gulf of Aden port is already crowded hosting the ships of various navies that patrol the Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea; including the US and Chinese navy ships. Djibouti also hosts a free trade and industrial zone which shares the port.
According to experts, the Eritrean port of Massawa is ideal for handling cargo for northern Ethiopia where there are new industrial zones being developed as well as minerals [such as potash] and agricultural resources.
Two weeks ago, a business delegation led by former Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn went to Eritrea on the first flight to Asmara in two decades and visited the Massawa port.
Earlier this week, the Eritrean government revealed that the port has gone through a major renovation process in order to enable it to provide service for Ethiopia’s import and export commodities.
Furthermore, according to the port authorities, the loading and unloading capacity of Massawa Port has been upgraded. Until the visit by the delegation team, the port has been abandoned by Ethiopia for more than two decades.
Founded in the 19th century and initially developed by the Italian and British colonial powers, the Port of Massawa is the primary port for import-export of goods to the Eritrean market.
In addition to accessing the ports in the Red Sea, Temesgen also confirmed to The Reporter that one more dry port will also be built locally to accommodate import items from Eritrean ports.
He told The Reporter that the Enterprise has already selected a site for the construction of the new dry port located near Woretta Town, South Gonder Zone of the Amhara Regional State.
The existing two dry ports — in Mekelle and Kombolcha towns – were recently built which was originally thought to accommodate import goods transported from the Port of Djibouti.
With the latest economic cooperation and integration agreements between the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments, the two aforementioned dry ports are expected to shift their primary purpose and accommodate goods and commodities coming from Massawa and the latter from port of Assab as well.
Although it is at an early stage, when the new dry port in Woreta is built, it will raise the total number of dry ports to six.
The first dry port was established in 2001 in Modjo followed by Semera Dry port.
The others include Hawasa, Mekelle and Kombolcha dry ports.