DJIBOUTI, June 15 (Reuters) - Djibouti on Thursday inaugurated a new port that will serve as the main gateway for potash exports from neighouring Ethiopia, the second of four new ports that will boost the tiny Horn of Africa nation’s position as a continental hub.
The port in the small fishing town of Tadjourah in the north of the country is the closest outlet for Ethiopia’s Afar and Tigray regions, where a number of foreign companies are developing potash mines.
Built at a cost of $90 million, the port has capacity of 4 million tonnes of potash a year.
“Ultimately, 35 percent of the volume of goods destined for Ethiopia can be unloaded here,” the Chairman of Ports and Free Trade Zones, Aboubaker Hadi, told Reuters.
“It is, therefore, a major port for the entire region.”
The inauguration comes a month after the country’s Doraleh multipurpose port was upgraded as part of a Chinese-backed plan to establish Africa’s largest free-trade zone, with the ability to handle goods worth $7 billion a year.
Doraleh’s bulk terminal can handle 2 million tons of cargo a year and offers space to store 100,000 tons of fertiliser and 100,000 tons of grain, plus warehouses for other goods.
The new infrastructure will supplement the country’s main port in Djibouti City, which handles roughly 95 percent of the inbound trade for landlocked Ethiopia, Africa’s second most-populous nation. Djibouti Port mainly handles goods from Asia, representing nearly 60 percent of traffic that increased by 20 percent to 5.7 million tonnes in 2015.
Another port designed for salt exports will also open this month.
Tiny Djibouti, with a population of 876,000, hosts large U.S. and French naval bases. China is also building a naval base in the country. (Reporting by Abdourahim Arteh; Writing by Aaron Maasho; Editing by David Goodman)