November 11 2006
Doraleh , Djibouti - The tiny but strategic Red Sea state of Djibouti on Saturday unveiled a multi-million-dollar project to expand its port and make it the Horn of Africa's main regional shipping terminal.
President Ismael Omar Guelleh laid the foundation stone of the second-phase of the $400-million facility upgrade, expected to be complete and operational by late 2008.
The expansion of Doraleh port, about 10km south of the capital, entails construction of a 2km container jetty for deep-water anchorage, allowing an additional 1,5 million offloads a year, officials said.
The port currently has the capacity to handle 10 million tonnes of general cargo and 400 000 container units per year and the upgrade will mean a significant boost in cargo traffic for the impoverished nation, they said.
" Djibouti five years ago was not like this," said Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, head of Dubai-based marine terminal firm, DP World, that is financing the project. "This is just a beginning.
"Development is everywhere (and) the port is the livelihood of the people here," he said. " Djibouti is one of nine key developments we have worldwide and is a vital link in our global network of 51 marine terminals."
The first phase of the expansion project was finalised in February and saw the construction of a $130-million oil terminal.
Located at the southern end of the Red Sea on the Gulf of Aden, Djibouti is a key staging post between the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal shipping route through to the Indian Ocean.
It is also home to the largest overseas French military base and the only US military base in Africa.