Ethiopian Shipping Lines: An over view

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BY Molla Mitiku: -


The business sector in Ethiopia has not only been booming since the past decade but also competitively appearing in the world market. The growth and development of both private and public business sectors fostered the economic development of the country. As a result, Ethiopia has registered double digit growth rate for the past eight consecutive years, 2002 - 2010.

The Ethiopian Shipping Lines is one of the government owned business institutions coming to the forefront but little has been said about it both in local and international media so that its significant contribution in the country’s economy hasn’t viewed.

March 10, 1964 was a historical day in which the agreement between the Ethiopian Government and the Taurus Investment Inc. was made to establish the Ethiopian Shipping Lines with an initial capital of 50,000 ETB and opened its head office in Washington DC.

Then, ESL entered an agreement with VEROLME group of Holland not only for the delivery of ships but also for technical, operational and managerial assistances.  The two cargo liners: the M.V "Lion of Judah" and the M.V "Queen of Sheba" as well as the oil tanker "Lalibela" were ordered for the first time and ceremoniously launched in 1966 at Rotterdam.

In recognition of the need for shipping services, Ethiopian Shipping Lines Share Company (ESLSC) has been undertaking an extensive fleet expansion programs since then. Its reestablishment in 1994 with a capital of 122 million was aimed to render coastal and international marine transport services.

Having envisioned being a modern indigenous shipping company that renders reliable and competitive maritime transport to the country’s export and importing trade, ESLSC has been exerting tremendous efforts to achieve its goals.

ESLSC comprises shore-based staff and the sea going personnel working on board ships in different ranks and positions. They intend to improve their market share and cultivate the sophisticated area of shipping lines under their motto that goes like “think big to achieve big and act with confidence”.  ESLSC has come a long way in the past five decades. Having passed through various challenges, it became one of the cornerstones to Ethiopia’s economic growth.

According to available documents, ESLSC launched its first service along the UK/North and West Europe routes, which was the major direction of Ethiopia’s import and export trade at that time. It then expanded its services to the Mediterranean, Adriatic, the Far East areas, Gulf regions and the Red Sea.

At present ESLSC uses the port of Djibouti as its base and provides reliable and efficient services, which persuaded many business institutions to show interests in using it.  Ato Ambachew Abraha, managing director of ESLSC told Africa Economy Magazine that the company has been playing a significant role in the Ethiopian economy.

“Since its establishment and commencement of operation, the company has lifted 24.9 million tones up to June 2010. ESLSC lifting accounts for about 37.3 percent for the country’s dry cargo imports and 56.3 percent of the general cargo imports during July 2009 to June 2010.  It loads various types of cargo indiscriminately, including dangerous, outsized and special cargoes which are vital for the country’s economic development and security,” according to the Director.

He emphasized that ESLSC helps the economy in saving foreign currency as well as providing consultation and follow-up on maritime issues, contributes to government treasury, develops human resources in the maritime sector, participates in developmental investments and strengthens international relations of the country. The director also disclosed that his company has entered in to 293.5 million USD contracts with China Ship Building Yards for construction of nine vessels to be delivered within the next two years, which enhances the current dry cargo loading capacity of the company to 337,742 dwt from 141,742 dwt.

ESLSC has planned and began construction to develop its inland container terminals and the maritime institute for   151,672,916.88 and 7,824, 358.71 birr in Dukem and Bisheftu respectively. “The company is an indigenous shipping company and has served the country for the past 47 years with good earnings and profitability records. It is providing door-to-door, competitive, reputable, safe and customer-focused service,” he told African economy magazine.

In a nutshell, the Ethiopian Shipping Lines has been growing fast from time to time. As a result, its role as one of the contributing factors to the development of the country’s economy is significant.  It has become one of the cornerstones of the countries economy.