Djibouti is doing fine without DP World

By Thibaud Teillard
Posted on Monday, 15 March 2021 09:46

Doraleh container terminal, in February 2013 © Vincent Fournier / JA

With a traffic increase of nearly 30% in 2020 which translates to 1.1 million TEU containers, the public port of Djibouti has achieved a rare growth rate compared to other worldwide ports, which have been severely weakened by the ongoing pandemic.

It boasts the best result in terms of growth rate of African ports, even beating the continent’s largest port Tangier Med. Unlike in Douala, the public authorities have succeeded despite the odds.

However, a new private operator is still expected to arrive in Djibouti. CMA CGM is just one of many operators who are interested, but no one will come until the legal framework has been cleaned up.

A strategy of circumvention

Ever since its forced eviction from the Port of Doraleh in early 2018, DP World has taken legal action in several countries. It won its arbitration case against Djibouti before the London Court of International Arbitration, as well as its lawsuit filed in the High Court of Hong Kong which contested China Merchants Port Holdings’ rights to the Djibouti free zone.

Faced with a Djiboutian state that refuses to execute the decisions made, DP World is trying to find a solution to the situation. Between its concessions in Berbera (Somaliland) and Bosaso (Puntland), as well as cooperation projects in Massawa and Assab in Eritrea, the Emirati giant wants to allow Ethiopia to avoid having to go through Djibouti, a bit like China’s String of Pearl’s policy which allows it to bypass India.

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