Port of Djibouti

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Port of Djibouti
The container terminal at the Port of Djibouti.jpg
The container terminal at the Port of Djibouti.
LocationDjibouti City
Coordinates11°36′19″N 43°08′21″E / 11.6053°N 43.1392°E / 11.6053; 43.1392
Operated byDjibouti Ports & Free Zones Authority
An Ethiopian cargo ship docked at the Port of Djibouti.

The Port of Djibouti is a port in Djibouti City, the capital of Djibouti. It is strategically located at the crossroads of one of the busiest shipping routes in the world, linking Europe, the Far East, the Horn of Africa and the Persian Gulf. The port serves as a key refueling and transshipment center, and is the principal maritime outlet for imports to and exports from neighboring Ethiopia.[2]


Ethiopian trade[edit]

Seventy percent of the cargo at the port is shipped to or from Ethiopia, accounting for over 95% of Ethiopia's foreign trade.[3][4] The port lost its direct railway access to Ethiopia when the Ethio-Djibouti Railway was abandoned. The Addis Ababa–Djibouti Railway, opened in 2017, runs to the nearby Port of Doraleh.

Foreign navies[edit]

The port's strategic location on the Gulf of Aden makes it an important military outpost for the Great Powers. Several berths at the port are reserved for the use of the United States Navy[citation needed] and the French Navy. The Chinese Navy also uses the Port of Djibouti, but it is moving to a dedicated facility at the nearby Port of Doraleh.[5]


Commercial vessels at the Port of Djibouti.

Djibouti as a main maritime passage and a main trading route between East and West stretches back 3,500 years, the time of maritime explorations of the Red Sea. A strategic meeting point between Northeast Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, the Red Sea was a place of contact and passage used by the Egyptians, the Phoenicians, the Ptolemaists, the Romans, the Greeks, the Byzantines, the Arabs, and then by the Europeans in search of the Spice route. Its apogee came with the opening of the Suez Canal.

The port evolved out of landlocked Ethiopia's search for a maritime outlet, and Djibouti’s coastline provided both easy access and sheltered anchorage. Work on the Franco-Ethiopian Ethio-Djibouti Railways began in 1897 and completed in 1917, connecting the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa to the port of Djibouti. The completion of the railway greatly increased business at the port.

Development at the port increased further between 1948 and 1957 with the construction of four deep-water quays and the dredging of the port access channels. On land, new warehouses and oil storage facilities were built, electricity and water supplies provided and railway lines laid.

In 1952, the French oil company Pétroles de Somalie (now known as Total S.A.) bunkered their first ship, and in 1956, Mobil Oil set up in Djibouti.

Between 1960 and 1970, port activity was developed as part of an international maritime exchange network. The Red Sea had become one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, and Djibouti found itself acting as its service station. Bunkering traffic quadrupled in the ten years from 1954, reaching a peak of 1.8 million tons in 1965.

Djibouti's strategic location enabled the port authorities to turn the port into a regional hub for the Red Sea and Indian Ocean, as well as for Europe, Africa and Asia. Containerization was the defining concept behind this new period of development and Djibouti’s first modern container terminal began operations in February 1985.

By the early 2000s, the Ethio-Djibouti Railways had deteriorated from a lack of maintenance. Between 2011 and 2016, the Chinese built a high-capacity standard gauge railway to replace the colonial-era French railway. The Addis Ababa–Djibouti Railway terminates at the nearby Port of Doraleh and restores Ethiopia's railroad access to the sea.

As of 2013, the Djibouti Ports & Free Zones Authority (DPFZA) is the governmental body administering the Port of Djibouti and other ports in the country. The organization also oversees the national free zones, serving as a liaison between the companies working therein and other government agencies. The DPFZA is subject to the Presidential Office.[6]


In September 2013, construction began on the Damerjog livestock port and the Doraleh multipurpose port. The Port of Doraleh will relieve congestion at the original Port of Djibouti, adding 29 million tons of annual capacity.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "UNLOCODE (DJ) - DJIBOUTI". service.unece.org. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  2. ^ "CIA World Factbook - Djibouti". The World Factbook. CIA. Retrieved February 27, 2013.
  3. ^ Meseret, Elias (October 5, 2016). "Ethiopia's new coastal rail link runs through restive region". Associated Press.
  4. ^ Maasho, Aaron (December 17, 2011). "Ethiopia signs Djibouti railway deal with China". Reuters. Ethiopia and Djibouti's economies are reliant on each other with about 70 percent of all trade through Djibouti's port coming from its land-locked neighbour.
  5. ^ Page, Jeremy (19 August 2016). "China Builds First Overseas Military Outpost". Wall Street Journal.
  6. ^ "DPFZA". Djibouti Ports & Free Zones Authority. Archived from the original on 29 September 2013. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
  7. ^ "Djibouti Starts Construction of Two Major Ports". World Maritime News. September 13, 2013.


External links[edit]