Somaliland wants Berbera port to handle 30 percent of Ethiopia’s cargo

May 3, 2024

By: Original Deutsche Welle amharic

Somaliland government plans for Berbera port to handle 30 percent of Ethiopia’s cargo. For this, an agreement regarding port usage and customs procedures should be signed between Ethiopia and Somaliland. The agreement is likely to be signed in the next 60 days, the head of the Somaliland Ports Authority told Deutsche Welle.

The yellow color of the caution sign on the left and right edge of the highway leading from Hargeisa to Berbera has not yet faded; It is not covered. The white-painted road divider was not much damaged. The main highway does not turn pale except at the entrance and exit of the cities of Hargeisa or Berbera.

The number of vehicles plying on the road is minimal for the time being. In a few months, however, it is hoped that it will be the main road for heavy vehicles to move Ethiopia’s export and import cargo.

This road is a part of Berbera transportation and infrastructure corridor that extends to Addis Ababa. The road from Addis Ababa to Berbera is 937 kilometers long. Of this, 696 km is in Ethiopia and the remaining 241 km is in Somaliland.

“We have the best corridor for Ethiopia,” the director of the Somaliland Ports Authority, Saeed Hassan Abdelahi, believes that Berbera will be the best option.

“The distance from Berbera to Mojo and from Djibouti to Mojo is the same,” said Saeed Hassan. But in our area the road is not hilly,” he told Deutsche Welle.

Onions loaded from Yemen and peeled for the Somaliland market at Berbera port

Light ships unload onions for the Somaliland market at Berbera port.

The main heartbeat of the corridor is the Port of Berbera. When I arrived at Berbera port last week Thursday, small boats unloaded onions from Yemen for the Somaliland market. Red bagged onions are being loaded onto a truck.

Beyond the smaller boats, three huge ships can be seen. The ships are registered in Guinea-Bissau, Togo and Panama. From the two ships, grain has begun to be unloaded onto cargo vehicles.

From Berbera port, sheep, goats, cattle and camels are shipped to the world market, especially to the Middle East. Commodities such as sugar, rice, wheat flour and wheat, as well as cooking oil, are also banned.

The World Food Program transports aid grain to Ethiopia through Berbera port. Said Hassan Abdilahi, director of the Somaliland Ports Authority, told Deutsche Welle that vehicles supplied to the Ethiopian market will also be transported at the port. But the plan is better than that.

Somaliland Ports Authority Director Saeed Hassan Abdullahi

Somaliland Ports Authority Director Saeed Hassan Abdilahi told Deutsche Welle that Berbera Port is expected to handle 30 percent of Ethiopia’s cargo in the first year when the necessary agreements are completed.

“Currently, we are preparing a transit agreement for the use of the port,” said Saeed Hassan Abdelahi. “Once we sign the agreement, we will handle 30 percent of Ethiopia’s cargo in the first year.”

It is expected that the final contract that will implement the MoU signed by Ethiopia and Somaliland will be completed in about two months. The chapter that will implement the Memorandum of Understanding signed by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and President Moses Bihi Abdi will give Somaliland the recognition it has been missing for three decades.

If the two sides negotiate and sign the final agreement as planned, Ethiopia will get a lease of land to establish a naval base off the coast of Somaliland.

Officials of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government said that Ethiopia would also get a commercial port when the memorandum of understanding was implemented, which faced strong opposition from Somalia.

Somaliland Finance Minister Saad Ali Shire, however, said Berbera Port will be open for use by all parties, including Ethiopian businessmen and the government. So there is no need to build another port,” he told Deutsche Welle.

Somaliland Finance Minister Saad Ali Shire

Somaliland Finance Minister Saad Ali Shire said Berbera Port will be open for use by all parties, including Ethiopian businessmen and the government. So there is no need to build another port,” he told Deutsche Welle. 

Berbera, where the port is located, has been a commercial center since before Europeans colonized Africa. She played a key role in the trade relations for Somali pastoralists. The first road from Berbera to Harar was built in 1940.

Berbera Port, which is managed by United Arab Emirates-owned DP World, has undergone major expansion over the years. “In terms of physical infrastructure, we have built the port,” said Somaliland Finance Minister Saad Ali Shire. A one kilometer wide pier; We have an international port with modern cranes that can load and unload containers,” he says, listing the work done over the years.

“We have built the road from Berbera Port to the border town. In addition, we have Free Economic Zones in Berbera. “We have prepared oil storage tanks, unloading from oil tankers,” said the Finance Minister, adding that the Berbera Corridor has been “almost” completed in terms of infrastructure.

Berbera Port currently has three huge loading and unloading cranes. A 300,000 square meter expansion area that can handle 500,000 containers per year has also been prepared. The rest of the work is to establish a legal system so that Berbera port can handle 30 percent of Ethiopia’s cargo as requested by the Somaliland authorities.

The road from Hargeisa to Berbera

Berbera port is located 937 kilometers from Addis Ababa

Saad Ali Shire said, “We should have a transit agreement between our two countries.” “We need to connect or link our customs systems,” he said. In addition, Somaliland and Ethiopia should also develop a transit agreement. “There are certain issues that are being processed in terms of procedure,” he explained.

“The legal issue is to be signed between governments. The agreement is being finalized,” the director of the Somaliland Ports Authority told Deutsche Welle, adding that “only one or two remaining issues” are being discussed.

Saeed Hassan Abdillahi, who pointed out that the talks could be completed “probably in the next 60 days,” said confidently, “After 60 days, we will sign the agreement and start using the corridor.”

Six years ago, Ethiopia owned a 19 percent stake in Berbera port development through an agreement signed with Somaliland and DP World, but it did not continue with the partnership. A few months ago, the Minister of Transport and Logistics, Alemu Sme, suggested that the Ethiopian government still wants to have a stake in Berbera Port.

The minister reminded that the port is mainly designed for Ethiopia, “if others come from other areas and have a share in developing the [Berber] port; Why doesn’t Ethiopia have a share?” They said there was an idea. He pointed out that the issue is being discussed and said that there is a negotiation and said “it is in a good condition”.

Somaliland and DP World have established a free economic zone 15 kilometers from Berbera port. The free trade zone is located on the road leading from the port to Ethiopia. Somaliland Ports Authority Director Saeed Hassan Abdilahi told Deutsche Welle that the construction will have three phases.

Stating that the first phase has been fully occupied by customers, the official said that an additional 8 square kilometers of free economic zone will be built. The Berbera Economic Zone will also have a 300,000 square feet expansion cooking oil packaging plant.

Somaliland and DP World, which have set their sights on the Ethiopian market, have plans to further develop the Berbera corridor. The fact that the port is located near the port of Bab’l, which plays a key role in the world’s shipping loop, has opened up more opportunities.

“We are trying to build a huge container terminal. “Maybe it will start next year,” said Saeed Hassan Abdilahi, who told Deutsche Welle that there are plans to build an additional 600-meter-wide berth for Berbera and add seven giant loading and unloading bays.

If the plan is implemented, “In general, Berbera Port will have a berth of 1,650 meters,” said Saeed Hassan Abdilahi, adding, “We can accommodate 2 million containers.” It will be a great and good option for Ethiopia,” he said.

Although the Berbera Corridor is mainly aimed at the Ethiopian market, Somaliland officials hope that it will also serve landlocked countries in the Horn of Africa. If the corridor connects with countries like South Sudan and Uganda, Somaliland Finance Minister Saad Ali Shire said, “Trade and travel will expand.” “Shipping costs will be reduced,” he told Deutsche Welle, which would have significant benefits


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