Somaliland: Djibouti Eyes Port of Zeila, Tows Dutch owned Damen Shipyard Company for Assessment

Djiboutian delegation pose at the proposed salt mining site in Zeila Somaliland

Somalilandsun: The port of Zeila in the west of Somaliland might soon see an ultra modern upgrade with financing by the government of Djibouti.

This development cones after a high powered Djiboutian delegation accompanied by officials of Damien Shipyard a Dutch shipping and port construction company inspected the port one of the most ancient dating as far back as the 9th century.

The delegation, led by Djibouti’s Presidential Adviser on Ports and Free Zones, Mohamed Aden Waberi (John), inspected Zeila Port and other parts of Selel Region including nearby Tokhoshi centre.

According to our sources the Djiboutian delegation, accompanied by experts from Damen Shipyard, assessed upgrade needs with specific data of interest being that related on the construction of a fishing port and the possibility of a sand fence in Zeila.

While Somaliland authorities are yet to comment on the neighbouring Country’s activities in its western Selel region It is noteworthy that Somaliland’s Representative to Djibouti Abdifatah Said Abdi was in tow too.

Somaliland and Djibouti share a port services competition, especially as per landlocked Ethiopia which began in early 2017, but Djibouti has a strong interest in the Selel region of Somaliland, which borders Djibouti.

The Somaliland government has not commented on the matter, but residents of Zeila and the wider Selel region are keeping a close eye on the delegation’s visit , purpose behind it and subsequent developments.

The Damen Group is a Dutch defence, shipbuilding, and engineering conglomerate company based in Gorinchem, South Holland, the Netherlands. Though it is a major international group doing business in 120 countries, it remains a private family-owned company.

In 2012 the Damen Shipyards built a Damen Modular Dock (DMD) 4020 for Djibouti. The 50 m x 20 m dry dock is used for repair and maintenance of the Djibouti Port Authorities’ own fleet and also available for port-calling

Djibouti, Somaliland’s neighbor, has been an international theater for the strategic competition of the control of the Red Sea. But since January 2016 when China and Djibouti reached an agreement to establish a Chinese People’s Liberation Army Support Base just miles away from Camp Lemonnier, the US has been uneasy. Camp Lemonnier is a United States Naval Expeditionary Base, situated next to Djibouti–Ambouli International Airport in Djibouti City, and home to the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa of the U.S. Africa Command. It is the only permanent U.S. military base in Africa.

For Somaliland the Port of Berbera is expected to challenge the monopoly enjoyed by Djibouti once complete in January 2021 and offer an alternative for maritime and military interests in the Horn of Africa.

DP World has invested in Berbera port an initial $120 million in financing the first phase (a 400-meter container terminal) which, after it becomes operational, will compete with Djibouti.

DP World says the Berbera Port will stand out as the trading and transportation hub for the Horn of Africa. This may turn the port into a new logistical gateway to East Africa and boost economic development in the unrecognized country.

With the completion of the Berbera Port and the construction of the road between Berbera-Wajaale which is financed by the United Arab Emirates and United Kingdom, Djibouti’s share of Ethiopian cargo will be reduced to 30 percent, according to the 2016 Port Utilization Agreement between Somaliland and Ethiopia, in which Somaliland can handle 30 percent of Ethiopia’s cargo from Berbera.

The United States is also keenly monitoring the infrastructural developments at the port and the city of Berbera as it considers an alternate military base with fears of China’s growing dominance over Djibouti.

This will place Somaliland from an initially isolated political actor in the region to a more active partner both at commercial and military levels.

In a coverage of the event by Radio Television Djibouti the presidential adviser said that the main intent of Djibouti authorities is to create a source of salt for both his country and Somaliland

Read statement HERE