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Djibouti: Djibouti Transportation Profile


boats, checking, day, divers, Djibouti,



The opening of three new ports over the past two months is bolstering Djibouti’s efforts to increase its share of transit and trans-shipment traffic in East Africa.

Maritime drive

In May the $590m Doraleh Multipurpose Port was officially inaugurated on schedule after two years of construction, following major expansion works by the China State Construction Engineering Corporation. The upgraded port, which was backed by the Djibouti Ports and Free Zone Authority (DPFZA) and state-owned China Merchants Port Holding, has a total annual capacity of 8.8m tonnes, spanning 690 ha with 15 berths, each of which is 1.2 km in length.

The following month saw the opening of the $90m Tadjourah Port. Located in the Gulf of Tadjourah, the 30-ha port includes a facility for handling 200 tonnes per hour of potash – a key Ethiopian export. The port’s other facilities include two linear quays of about 435m in length and a 190-metre roll-on/roll-off terminal.

Aboubaker Omar Hadi, chairman of the DPFZA, told the media that longer term, the port would have the capacity to handle 35% of all goods heading for Ethiopia. “This makes Tadjourah not only significant for Djibouti but the wider region,” he said last month.

Just one week after the Tadjourah facility became operational, the country also formally opened the $64m Goubet Port.

Built by China Harbour Engineering Company, the mineral port will enable Djibouti to export salt and gypsum deposits from Lake Assal. Djibouti is targeting exports of 6m tonnes of salt annually from the port, which is located some 40 km south of the Gulf of Goubet and has the capacity to berth vessels of 100,000 deadweight tonnage.

The next phase of Djibouti’s port project pipeline involves the construction of the $640m, 645-ha Doraleh International Container Terminal, which is expected to be operational by 2020 and will be run by the Port of Djibouti and China Merchants Port Holdings.

International ambitions

Djibouti's location provides easy access to many of Africa's fastest-growing frontier markets – including 95m-person Ethiopia, which relies on Djibouti for more than nine-tenths of its external trade – and has been one of the primary factors underpinning China's interest in its transport infrastructure.

The country also lies on the route of approximately 60% of global maritime traffic, – including major shipping lanes between Europe, the Middle East and Asia – and at a critical junction on the Maritime Silk Road, the sea segment of China’s ambitious, multibillion-dollar transport corridor project.

As a result, China has been investing heavily in Djibouti. In addition to helping finance and build the recently opened port facilities, plans also include creating new warehouse and office space alongside the Djibouti Free Trade Zone. China Merchants Port Holdings is set to lead construction on the $7bn, 10-year project, having signed a 2015 agreement with the DPFZA.

The infrastructure spending has borne fruit. The country jumped 20 places in the World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index between 2014 and 2016, for example, moving up from 154th position to 134. Capital investment in Djibouti’s ports was also listed as a key driver of the economy this year in the government’s budget, in which it predicted a GDP growth rate of 7% – up from 6.5% last year.

However, competition for maritime traffic from other regional players is on the rise, particularly as Ethiopia – with a GDP growth rate of around 8% as of 2016, according to the IMF – looks to increase its access to the sea. In April, for example, it secured 19% access and usage rights at Somaliland’s Berbera Port in northern Somalia.

Nearby Kenya and Tanzania are also both investing billions into upgrading and inaugurating new ports, with the objective of expanding their share of transit and trans-shipment trade to regional markets.

A quarter of Ethiopia’s imports and half of its exports move through the port.[citation needed] Car ferries ply the Gulf of Tadjoura from Djibouti city to Tadjou

Major roads include N1 west from Djibouti 246 km via Ouê'a and Mouloud to Dikhil, again north via Yoboki to Ethiopia, designated part of the Ndjamena-Djibouti Trans-Africa Highway 6; N2 east from Djibouti along the coast to Somalia at Layado; N9 from N1 122 km north and east to Tadjoura, where a secondary road continues along the coast; and a secondary road from Djibouti south-west via Holhol and Ali Addé to Ali Sabieh, again north to join N1.

There is one road to Somalia at Layado; three roads to Ethiopia: south from Ali Sabieh parallel to the railway to Dewele, N1 to Deda'i on Ethiopia No 2, and an unimproved track north-west from Balho to Ethiopia No 2; and two to Eritrea: an unpaved track overland from Tadjoura via Randa and Assa Gaila to Aseb, and a coastal track from Obock to Aseb;

In 2004, there were an estimated 13 airports, only 3 of which had paved runways as of 2005. Djibouti–Ambouli International Airport, which is situated about 6 km from the city of Djibouti, is the country's international air terminal. There are as well local airports at Tadjoura and Obock. Beginning in 1963, the national-owned Air Djibouti as well provided domestic service to various domestic centers and flew to a lot of overseas destinations. The national carrier discontinued operations in 2002. Daallo Airlines, a Somali-owned private carrier, has as well offered air transportation since its foundation in 1991. With its hub at the Djibouti–Ambouli International Airport, the airline provides flights to a number of domestic and overseas destinations.

Airports - with unpaved runways Total: 
Transportation - note: 

the International Maritime Bureau reports offshore waters in the Gulf of Aden are high risk for piracy; numerous vessels, including commercial shipping and pleasure craft, have been attacked and hijacked both at anchor and while underway; crew, passengers, and cargo are held for ransom