Ethiopia: Nation Welcomes Eighth Dry Port to Facilitate Trade With Sudan

The port is expected to be operational at the beginning of December

The construction of a new dry port in Wereta, in northern Gonder of Amhara Regional State, has been completed at a cost of 90 million Br. The port is expected to facilitate Ethiopia's trade with Sudan.

Expected to be operational in the first weeks of December, the cost of construction was covered by the Ethiopian Shipping & Logistics Enterprise, the state-owned shipping giant.

Wereta Dry Port, which will be the eighth one for the country, will rest on three hectares of land and be able to accommodate 1,000 containers at once. The regional government has set aside 17ha of additional land for the port to use as demand increases.

Currently, the Enterprise is in the process of hiring and structuring human resources for use at the port. The facilities include a warehouse, a terminal, offices and a cafeteria.

"The port will facilitate trade with Sudan," said Asheber Nota, communications director at the Enterprise, which was established eight years ago after the merger of Ethiopian Shipping Lines, Maritime & Transit Services Enterprise and Dry Port Enterprise. "After considering the demand, we will be developing the rest of the area."

Ethiopia's exports to Sudan, mainly coffee, tea, meat and spices, stood at around 50 million dollars in 2016, while the former buys oil from the latter.

Exporters, especially of sesame seeds, which is a popular agriculture product from the area, are similarly eager about the completion of the port and await its operationalisation.

"It will help us make use of industrial parks that are located near the port such as Kombolcha, Debre Birhan, Meqelle and Bahir Dar," said an exporter who preferred to stay anonymous.

With construction of the port beginning in March of this year, the contractor was the Amhara Road Works Enterprise, a decade-old enterprise that operates with close to 800 employees and is currently engaged in the construction of the Tana Beles Canal. The engineering department of the Enterprise was responsible for supervising the project.

Currently, there are seven dry ports in the country: Modjo, Qality, Gelan, Semera, Dire Dawa, Kombolcha and Meqelle. They have an aggregate capacity of hosting 24,000 containers at a time and handle over 90pc of the country's exports, which stand at around three billion dollars worth of goods, and imports, which is almost five times that amount.

The main one of these is Modjo Dry Port, which is located in the eastern inlet of Addis Abeba. Established a decade ago, it hosts 78pc of the country's shipping and logistics services.

The Shipping & Logistics Enterprise does not own the dry ports in Kombolcha, Dire Dawa and Meqelle but rents them. It is currently constructing ports in the former two and undertaking feasibility studies in Meqelle. The Enterprise operates 11 shipping vessels, of which nine are dry cargo ships with a total carrying capacity of 400,000tn, and the other two are oil tankers capable of transporting 42,000tn of oil each.

Ethiopia's shipping and logistics operations have been criticized by private players and international institutions as one of the prime reasons for the nation's negative balance of trade, which stood at 14.4 billion dollars in the 2017/18 fiscal year.

Out of 190 countries, Ethiopia is ranked 117 in the World Bank's latest Logistics Performance Index, which ranks nations' efficiency of logistics operations.

Melaku Girma, deputy operation head of Andargachew & Family Transit Service who spent more than a quarter of a century in the logistics industry, was thrilled by the construction of the port.

"As long as the port is equipped with the right human resources and facilities, besides cutting transport time and expenses, it will help provide efficient service to consumers," Melaku said.

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