In October 2022 the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and BLG LOGISTICS signed a Standby Partnership Agreement for the deployment of seaport and logistics service providers in WFP missions. BLG is now one of 28 WFP partner organizations worldwide.
With this agreement, the international aid organization is confirming the role played by BLG LOGISTICS in the effort to eradicate hunger. Over the past ten years, the company has already provided many support activities. Representatives of the logistics service provider BLG have worked on more than twenty missions in the world's poorest regions. The goal was always clear: to apply their logistics expertise to combat hunger. On site, BLG port experts Wolf Lampe and Ferdinand Möhring analyzed accessibility, infrastructure, equipment and organization of the seaports and estimated handling and storage capacities. After every trip, they formulated recommendations for the organization designed to ultimately benefit not only the ports themselves, but above all the people in the crisis areas.
The main purpose of the most recent mission was to evaluate the access corridor to Ethiopia. With a population of 120 million, the East-African state is the world's most populous landlocked country. Population growth is high in the traditionally agricultural society. At the same time, basic infrastructure is often lacking. Most supplies arrive via the ports of Djibouti.
Ethiopia itself has no access to the sea. The country in the Horn of Africa borders on Eritrea, which gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993. Since then, the ports of Assab and Massawa also belong to Eritrea. This means Ethiopia's economy depends on the ports in Djibouti. However, for the past few years the port of Berbera in Somaliland has become increasingly involved in trade with Ethiopia.
The deep-water port of Djibouti is a transit and handling hub for goods trade between Europe, the Far East, the Persian Gulf and East Africa. It is also the central node for freight to and from Ethiopia. Therefore the port is vital for the smooth flow of humanitarian aid such as food. In the past three years alone, almost four million metric tons of aid supplies were handled via Djibouti.
The logistics corridor between Djibouti and Ethiopia has developed very positively over the past 20 years. Today it boasts many unique features that make it worth a closer look.
The infrastructure of the Djibouti ports, especially the terminals in Doraleh, is well developed and corresponds with the global standard. Djibouti City has a container terminal and a multipurpose terminal. The container terminal features eight gantry cranes and can handle ships up to 15,000 TEU. Another four cranes are planned for the handling of 24,000-TEU ships. Located to the West of the container terminal, the multipurpose port of Doraleh has ten derrick cranes. These are special cranes with retractable booms. The container terminal also operates four additional gantry cranes capable of handling heavy-goods and bulk carriers of all types.
Transport routes between Addis Ababa and Djibouti are highly developed. Addis Ababa is the capital of Ethiopia and seat of the UN Economic Commission for Africa as well as the headquarters of the African Union. Apart from the road route, there is a rail connection from Djibouti City port to Addis Ababa. The Ethio-Djibouti Railway connects the port with Ethiopia as far as Addis Ababa via the Nagad Railway Station consolidation point. Built by China, the rail corridor is fully electrified and serves a total of 21 railway stations. The transit time to Addis Ababa is 18 hours. If required, the line also serves several dry ports.
Djibouti City port also operates an effective data communication system. The database supplies data on freight movements and handling activities to registered and connected users. Some information is even transmitted in real time, a unique service in East Africa. Apart from strictly port-related data, goods transport on the freeway toward Ethiopia is also integrated in the system.
To improve the logistics for humanitarian as well as commercial goods, the Djibouti government and the WFP have established a humanitarian logistics base (HLB) near the port. Its storage capacities are unique anywhere in the world. The HLB operates huge grain silos, a highly effective packaging system and its own truck fleet.
The commercial throughput for the rapidly expanding Ethiopian market as well as the continuing high volume of food aid place a significant strain on the port and transport sector in Djibouti. This pressure can quickly lead to bottlenecks and delays. Furthermore, political instability in the region also makes it important to look for alternatives. And they are available.
Berbera in Somaliland is the starting point of a second corridor, which is developing positively. Under international law, Somaliland belongs to Somalia. However, in practice it is independent. On May 18, 1991 it unilaterally declared its independence when the Somali government was overthrown and the civil war in Somalia escalated. Since then, it has largely retained political stability and taken steps toward democratization. The port of Berbera in Somaliland was developed into a modern multipurpose facility by the government and the port operator Dubai Ports World (DPW). The road corridor to the Ethiopian border via Somaliland's capital city Hargeysa is in excellent condition. However there is no rail connection like the one between Djibouti and Ethiopia.
Ferdinand Möhring analyzed the infrastructure of the ports of Djibouti City, Doraleh and Tadjoura (Djibouti) as well as Berbera (Somaliland). He took into account the modal connections to the hinterland and identified the unique characteristics of the corridor. The corridor between the ports of Djibouti and Addis Ababa provides important indicators which can be applied to describe the performance capability of the ports. The many positive characteristics of the corridor will in the future serve as a benchmark for successful transport of aid supplies.