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New Port Restrictions Introduced

UN Integrated Regional Information Network, 17 July 2001

A decree signed into law by Djibouti President Ismael Omar Guelleh last week will impose restrictions on foreign companies wishing to engage in shipping and transit operations at the Red Sea port of Djibouti.

According to an article in the Ethiopian magazine ’Fortune’, the new law, which has been under consideration for several months, is likely to further fuel resentment felt by Ethiopian businessmen following the introduction of increased port tariffs earlier this year.

The decree, signed into effect on 8 July by President Guelleh, gives exclusive rights to Djibouti nationals in stevedoring, and requires other nationals to introduce reciprocal laws should their companies want to engage in shipping and transit agency operations at the port, according to a report issued on Monday by DPA, the German news agency.

Meanwhile, humanitarian sources in Addis Ababa have told IRIN that the latest development is part of a sequence of reciprocal measures taken by the governments of both Djibouti and Ethiopia in the past few months concerning the use of the port.

Earlier this year, the Ethiopian government proposed the introduction of a dry port system that required goods imported through Djibouti to be transferred directly for clearance at inland container terminals. Businessmen protested against the idea on the grounds that it would create a state monopoly in transit business for Ethiopian Shipping Lines, a parastatal agency, said DPA.

This was in addition to an Ethiopian government requirement for using the Maritime and Transit Service Enterprise, another parastatal company, as the shipping agent to transport goods from the port inland to Ethiopia. The government has since lifted these requirements until studies are conducted into how the system could benefit all users.

Implementation of the new law is expected to take place over a 60-day period, allowing time for commercial interests in both countries to consider the practical implications. In the meantime, aid agencies in Ethiopia would be considering the effects, if any, on current arrangements for the delivery of food and other supplies through the port, humanitarian sources in Addis Ababa told IRIN.