The clear blue waters of the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean lap Somalia’s enviably long coastline of more than 3,000 kilometres. For years, ports along this coast have been neglected, littered with sunken vessels and general debris. The tide has washed in tons of silt, making the ports less accessible.This has had a damaging effect on the transport of both commercial and humanitarian cargo.
As part of a special operation managed by the Logistics team, the World Food Programme rehabilitated the port in Mogadishu and then quickly turned its attention to the north-eastern port of Bossaso.
"Bossaso has become a key entry point for the northern corridor into north central Somalia, where WFP’s operations have significantly increased, especially since the droughts in 2011," says Paul Wyatt, head of logistics for WFP Somalia.
A bucket dredger and crew removed the silt from the sea floor, scoop by scoop. The sediment was loaded aboard the dredging vessel and then dropped in waters about a mile beyond the coast.
“We’ve been removing silt from the inner harbour, where small vessels with cargo from Dubai and other places dock, but also the outer harbour where large relief ships dock,” says dredger Captain Michael Dennis.
By removing 160,000 cubic metres of silt, the port depth has been increased overall by about one and a half metres. That means ships with greater drafts can now safely navigate into the port of Bossaso, because the water is deep enough for them to berth even at zero tide. The number of berthing ships has since risen by almost a third. And with bigger ships now able to dock, the tonnage of imports has gone up by 50 percent.
This has given a big boost to local trade. For WFP, it has meant the ability to transport greater volumes of food to Somalia at any one time, making its life-saving operations more efficient – and, importantly, more cost-effective.