The increased throughput of both humanitarian and commercial cargo in Djibouti Port and the limited warehouse capacity available has resulted in a severe transport capacity gap for humanitarian shipments into the Horn of Africa. In 2009, WFP alone handled almost a million tons of mixed food commodities in the region. In that same year, 86% of WFP’s international purchases for all WFP Ethiopia programmes arrived through the Djibouti port. This massive amount cannot be moved without facing logistics constraints.
But as if WFP Ethiopia needs were not enough, WFP Somalia Country Office also regularly uses the port as a transit hub for food aid cargo destined to the northern and central regions of Somaliland and Puntland in an effort to offset congestions at the southern Somali Port of Mombasa. However, this practice remains limited because of the scarce storage capacity of Djibouti.
Issues such as these pushed WFP to look for further alternative solutions to overcome the endemic logistical bottleneck. We found one.
On 20 September, 2010, the Government of Djibouti signed an agreement handing over 40,000 square metres of land to WFP for the construction and set-up of a Humanitarian Logistics Base (HLB) to help improve and enhance the regional logistical supply chain network for humanitarian assistance.
As manager of the HLB, WFP plans on making it a truly multipurpose facility. Operating under a customs bonded status, it will have enough storage space to handle both WFP food and humanitarian assistance from other UN agencies and non-governmental organisations heading to countries in the region. Capable of storing 20,000 metric tons of bulk (loose cargo) and 10,000 metric tons of break bulk, the warehouse will also provide an area for non-food items storage. Moreover, the HLB will also be capable of acting as a container yard terminal where arrangements with the Djiboutian Government foresee the HLB becoming a designated container terminal for humanitarian cargo. And if that is not enough, it will provide a logistics training centre for WFP, in tandem with the Djibouti Government, to build the capacity of local logistics service providers.
Without infringing on WFP’s corporate UNHRD Network endeavour, the HLB carries the ambition of becoming a successful sub-regional set-up which will enhance the supply chain involved in the ongoing programmes of those key humanitarian players operating in the Horn of Africa.
Construction of the HLB is expected to start in March 2011.
*TEU: TEU is a unit of cargo capacity often used to describe the capacity of container ships and container terminals. It is based on the volume of a 20-foot long and 8 feet wide shipping container, a standard-sized metal box which can be easily transferred between different modes of transportation, such as ships, trains and trucks. ne TEU corresponds to approximately 33 m3 .
Many thanks to the WFP Ethiopia Team and all involved in this project!