Ethiopia: Adding Alternatives in Ports' Menu

Since Ethiopia extended olive branch to Eritrea, there have been immediate and positive developments between the two countries which catapulted diplomatic relations after years of stalemate.

In just few days, there have been rapid and rosier developments between Ethiopia and Eritrea. And if the ongoing agreements come to fruition and garner further momentum, it is inevitable that port of Assab would be the centerpiece of their fresh cooperation bringing additional opportunities of economic integration to the Horn Region._

Just days ago, Ethiopia and United Arab Emirates entered agreements with the latter to install pipeline from Masaawa to Ethiopia.

Ethiopian Airlines has already restarted flights to the capital Asmara from two Ethiopian cities, and is planning services to Massawa and the southern port Assab soon.

Ethiopia used Massawa and port Assab as outlets for trade and oil refinery located in Assab port was used for its domestic use before the deadliest war started between the neighboring countries. But owing to the recent positive development, Addis Ababa and Asmara are preparing for increased economic cooperation.

Alternative outlets will definitely ease the costs and trade efficiencies. Being geographically disadvantaged and hit by high shipping prices, landlocked countries face barriers in global trade. The well being of landlocked nations mainly rests on coastal neighbors' cross-border political relations, peace and stability.

According to Dr. Yakob Hailem- ariam, an_International legal advisor, accessing Port Assab brings over whelming advantages to the country and has certain advantages. In this regard, Port Assab will be an alternative outlet for the country that mainly serves the northern part of the country cutting the distance and time significantly, he added. However, it requires painstaking assessments of the infrastructural facilities that have been abandoned for years.

"The basic prerequisites to resume service are roads and bridges. Experts should be deployed to assess the facilities. It is plain fact that the port should be well developed to accommodate big ships and heavy machinery. This needs expertise explanation and decision."

"It was nothing but bankruptcy for a country; pumping hefty amount of cash to expand the port years ago to which the country did not make use of it as the two countries entered into conflicts."

However, the recent positive developments flicker a ray of hope on mutual cooperation to develop the port, he explains, adding the fact that Port Assab is much nearer and has layers of advantages for the economic growth and is near to the northern part of Ethiopia.

It is also reported that Massawa has been ready for service while a task force has been formed from Ethiopian side to preside over the whole activities. This has been praised as leapfroging move by many scholars in terms of increasing trade efficiency and competitiveness by expanding sea outlets for Ethiopia and bringing economic cooperation in the region. The country's economy is poised to grow more; thus, the import-export business cannot be met with one or two ports, necessitating concerned bodies to look for alternatives, according to him.

For long the country has been using port of Djibouti effectively and maintained warm diplomatic ties with Djibouti. And the renewal of relations with Eritrea will help secure efficient port services to the expanding economy, he underscored.

Expanding accessibility of ports will not fracture relations with coastal countries, indicated Ethiopian Shipping and Logistics Service Enterprise Public Relations Team Leader Ashebir Nota. "It rather benefits the whole region in fostering regional integration. Ethiopia is a big country that it also needs many outlets so there will not be possible overlap of advantages.

Lacking territorial access to the sea, landlocked countries are subject to extra costs for transit and transport services making them less competent in global markets as opposed to coastal countries. Landlocked countries are the primary victims of global price hike, particularly when it comes to shipping and freight transport which experts encourage countries to diversify their ports alternatives.

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