Ethiopia should containerize.


The UK firm Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick has just completed a comprehensive survey and analysis of the transportation of import and export cargoes in Ethiopia, now that the independence of Eritrea has transformed Ethiopia into a landlocked country. The study was a diagnostic analysis of the current situation, aimed at identifying what constraints stand in the way of development of containerisation and multimodal transport.

Prior to 1991, Ethiopia had a long coastline on the Red Sea, with two deep-water ports, at Assab and Massawa. Projects were due to commence in 1991 at Assab and in Addis Ababa, designed to cater for the growing level demand for container traffic. At Assab, two container berths were to be constructed, together with an onshore container port and a container freight station.

In Addis Ababa, detailed study and design work was about to commence on the establishment of an inland container depot. Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick was chosen to conduct the design, study and supervision of construction work at Assab and in Addis Ababa.

But the 1991/92 civil war, which culminated in the ousting of the regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam and in the independence of Eritrea, confirmed in 1993, caused the suspension of all work on the two projects.


Eritrea now owns the ports of Assab and Massawa, and Ethiopia has become a landlocked country. Therefore, a review of the transport situation - and in particular of the factors affecting multimodal transport - was required before the projects could be reactivated.

This need was made even more important by the new economic policy which is being adopted by the Transitional Government of Ethiopia, under which state control of the transport sector is being replaced by private enterprise. The change is to be achieved through the divestiture and privatisation of state monopolies in road transport, clearing and forwarding of licences to other private operators.

The recent study has revealed that container penetration into Ethiopia is at a "very low level indeed" at present, according to Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick. The majority of Ethiopian traffic continues to be handled at Assab port, with Djibouti taking a share of about 15% of dry traffic. The port of Massawa, in northern Eritrea, now serves only Asmara, the capital of Eritrea; no Ethiopian through traffic is handled there.

The total dry cargo landed at Assab in 1992/93 was 1m tonnes. Of this, 650,000t was bulk wheat and fertiliser, leaving 350,000t of...

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