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DP World eyes Eritrean ports in region strategy

Addis Ababa — The Red Sea state of Eritrea may play a key role in DP World’s plans in the Horn of Africa, where a dozen ports could be needed to service the region, CEO

Addis Ababa — The Red Sea state of Eritrea may play a key role in DP World’s plans in the Horn of Africa, where a dozen ports could be needed to service the region, CEO Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem said.

The Dubai-based state-controlled harbour operator is evaluating its strategy in the region after having its stake in a port in Djibouti — the main trade route for Ethiopia, Africa’s fastest-growing economy — nationalised by the government. Developing more ports in the Horn, including one it is already building at Berbera in the self-declared republic of Somaliland, will help boost trade flows to Dubai, Bin Sulayem said in an interview.

Eritrea’s strategic location near the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, a key shipping lane used by oil tankers and other cargo vessels en route to the Suez Canal, makes it an attractive investment destination for logistics companies. It is also a gateway to other nations in the region, the CEO said.

“Eritrea is going to have a major role,” Bin Sulayem said. “We believe that the way we should look at the Horn of Africa is not at Eritrea alone, but add to the equation South Sudan, other parts of Sudan, and Eritrea’s needs, and then the Ethiopian population.”

The company has been carrying out assessments throughout the region, Bin Sulayem said. He declined to specify how many harbours it is targeting of the 10 to 12 it estimates the region requires.

Eritrea is normalising its foreign relations after signing a historic peace deal in July with neighbouring Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous nation with 105-million people. The two countries fought a border war two decades ago that claimed as many as 100,000 lives.

DP World will consider what the government’s plans are at the port city of Assab and “will be there like everybody else” if asked to invest, Bin Sulayem said. Eritrean Information Minister Yemane Gebremeskel said he could not comment on whether the ports of Assab and Massawa will be opened for tender.

Eritrea may provide an alternative trade route for the region instead of Djibouti, where DP World is in a legal dispute with the government after it nationalised the Doraleh Container Terminal last month. That followed a UK tribunal ruling that Djibouti’s cancellation in February of DP World’s contract to run DCT was unlawful.

Dispute resolution

Djibouti’s government has not approached DP World directly or indirectly with an offer of a settlement, Bin Sulayem said. Djibouti’s ports authority chairman, Aboubaker Omar Hadi, said in an e-mailed response to questions he met Bin Sulayem in January where they discussed possible compensation, though details of that have yet to be worked out.

“That’s the only way out: compensation,” Aboubaker said. “But we believe that they are not interested in money. They want more than money. They want to freeze any maritime infrastructure development on the 354 kilometers of the coast in the entire country for the next 50 years.”

DP World spokespeople Michael Vertigans and Sana Maadad did not immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment sent on Friday.

DP World is also in arbitration with China Merchants Port Holdings at the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre over the alleged infringement of DP World’s 50-year concession to run the Djibouti terminal, Bin Sulayem said. China Merchants bought a stake in DCT in 2012.

Ethiopia, Somaliland

Elsewhere in the region, DP World is interested in helping develop Kenya’s Mombasa port, and in helping Ethiopia establish a logistics facility, he said.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed this year pledged to co-develop four unidentified seaports in Somalia with Somalia’s federal government. While DP World’s involved only in Somaliland and in the Bossaso port in neighbouring semi-autonomous Puntland, it will consider more Somali ports if further offers are made, Bin Sulayem said.

Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi said last week in Hargeisa that Ethiopia may use three more Somali ports — Bosaso in Puntland, and Merca and Kismayo in southern Somalia.

Somaliland, which has declared independence from Somalia, hosts a United Arab Emirates military facility at Berbera, though Bin Sulayem said the base won’t have a bearing on its investment plans.

“Whatever the UAE does is to improve trade relations because that is our bread and butter,” Bin Sulayem said. “There is no political agenda of the UAE in Africa. Our agenda is trade.”


Review overview
  • k.tewolde October 25, 2018

    How about the Eritrean people who did the ground work,who actually fought and freed the coastal towns of Tio ,Eidi,Baada,Barraasolli,Bailul…….and roamed in the sand dunes and alluvial fans of the scorching heat of the Denakil depressions,did the lightning strike oppression on the Asseb’s refineries,the sons and daughters of our nation who fell on the ever shifting sand of the desert,where do they fit in this equation? What part do they have in this deal? or are they simply forgotten souls of the past?

    • Asmara Eritrea October 26, 2018

      Hitherto, every commercial contract signed by the Eritrean regime and others be it mining companies and possibly DP in the future are constructed under a “David and Goliath” scenario. The Eritrea regime has no skills to even make sense of the contract Ts & Cs let alone negotiate best deal for the country. That makes these contracts “null and void” on the day Isaias is removed from power. All and every commercial contract ought to be suspended on the day Isaias is removed, with contractors payroll unaffected i.e. mine workers and others continue to be paid by the contractors.

      Once all commercial contracts are suspended, there needs to be a forensic audit of all contracts, including recreating an audit trail of the revenue streams from inception to suspension. Contractors should be made to pay for lost revenue, including revenue lost through transfer pricing and where appropriate their contracts revoked for good.

      All the above can be done by Eritreans who have acquired the necessary skills and experience for many years. What we need is for the regime to fall and that should be our priority.

      Eritrea forever, death to dictatorship.

  • Sol October 25, 2018

    Dear K. Tewolde, in the dictionary of the mafia regime there is only NSU who acts as if Eritrea is his private farm and the entire people including his loyal servants are just slaves. The central government of Somalia which is considered a failed state has a strong Parliament that refused the lease agreement between DP and Somali land.

  • hailom October 26, 2018

    ክሳዕ ጽርውርው ዝብለና ዘሎ ነገራት ብቕልጡፍ ይቕየሩ ኣለዉ. ካን ኤርትራ ትብሃል ክትህሉ ድያ ንሓዋሩ. ንመጀመርያ ጊዜ ተስፋ ቖሪጸ ንነብሰይ ከም ተጓዕጺጹ እንደገና ኢትዮጵያዊ ዝኸውን ዘሎ ሰብ ቆጺረያ.

  • HdriswuE halalmariet October 26, 2018

    What Eritrea ,in the hands of the impostor isaias afewerk and his jackals, is facing is a de javu of the Scramble for Africa by the European countries in nineteenth century.

    These villains are racing to sell every part of Eritrea to highest bidders to bolster their secret foreign accounts before they are chased out by genuine Eritreans who are fast catching up to their treacheries and betrayals..

    However, these impostors, having been addicted to easily duping the Eritrean people for more than half a century with combinations of false promises and fear mongering, they have resorted to yet another con artistry of deception in order to stave off the Eritrean people’s anger from exploding on their faces.

    Dr. Berh Habtegergis has been dispatched to pacify their angry diaspora supporters by rationalizing that what the sudden rapprochement of Eritrean-Ethiopian exposed naked to the outside world, including the complete fiasco of Eritrean economy, total breakdown of banking and judicial systems, complete break down of morale of government employees etc. to be the logical price the Eritreans paid not only for defending and preserving their Sovereignty but also for finally forcing Ethiopia to end it’s seventeen years of intransigence to abide by the Final and Binding decision of the EEBC.

    But why Dr. Berh H, and not Yemane monkey or Hagos Kisha?

    Because, ever coniving, they figured out that, unlike monkey and kisha, Dr. Berh has two credentials —-PhD and Eritrean gene-‘– that can at this time cool down their angry diaspora supporters. Of course in vain!!