Ethiopia mulls using Lamu port to import fertiliser

A Ship docks at the Port of Lamu. [File, Standard]

Ethiopia is exploring the possibility of using Lamu port to import fertiliser as part of an effort to expand its port destinations beyond Djibouti, which handles the bulk of its cargo.

Even though the idea to use Lamu was proposed years ago, it has not been used up to this point. 

A delegation from Ethiopia has conducted a fact-finding mission on Lamu and Mombasa ports and is optimistic that they will be able to strike a deal with Kenya.

State Minister of Ministry of Transport and Logistics, Denge Boru stated, “The delegation has visited the port and road conditions up to Moyale, whether or not it is suitable for the operation.”

To ensure a seamless operation, various paperwork and agreements between the two countries will need to be completed before the service is launched via Lamu. Due to security concerns in the Red Sea, Ethiopian cargo is now handled through Mombasa despite the obstacles that separate it from Djibouti.

The catalyst for this shift stems from delays experienced by inbound and outgoing cargo at ports in Djibouti, attributed to vessel operators reducing their operations along the Red Sea route. 

With vessels navigating the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden facing security risks, including attacks by Houthi militants in Yemen, shipping corporations have been compelled to seek alternative routes to ensure the timely and safe delivery of goods.

According to the proposal, the government intends to use Berbera Port in Somaliland as a substitute for cargo imports, primarily for the country’s east and southeast. To date, Ethiopia’s closest and most established port location that is also connected to an electric train is Djibouti.

Despite its higher operational costs compared to Djibouti, Mombasa has emerged as a preferred option for Ethiopian freight due to its relative stability and efficiency.

The Mombasa route has particularly benefited industrial hubs such as Hawassa, Bole Lemi, Debre Berhan, and Adama, where manufacturers rely heavily on timely imports of raw materials and exports of finished goods.