Monday, May 20, 2024

Customs operations impede incoming Ethiopian cargo from Djibouti


The difficulties that have arisen in recent months regarding customs operations that impede incoming Ethiopian cargo from Djibouti to the center have been discussed during the most recent visit of an Ethiopian delegation led by Alemu Simie, Minister of Transport and Logistics (MoTL), to Djibouti, a major sea outlet for Ethiopian cargo.
According to information Capital got from both the Djiboutian and Ethiopian authorities, the stack of goods in Djibouti has been attributed to customs-related problems that mostly occurred in the most recent few months, which Ethiopian operators claimed has resulted in an additional cost for cargo.
The case has been discussed, according to the Ethiopian Maritime Authority (EMA) Djibouti Branch, to coordinate Ethiopian cargoes with the committee, which consists of Ethiopian state offices and stakeholders headquartered in Djibouti.
While the issue occurred a few months prior to the committee’s meeting, it was only recently that the matter was discussed.
The head of the EMA branch in Djibouti, Abebe Tefera, claimed that in order to expedite cargo going to Ethiopian consumers, Djiboutian Customs is asking for documents such the HS Code and Area Code, which are irrelevant to them.
Experts in Djibouti and those who are unaware of the deal between the two nations expect the Djiboutian side to facilitate streamlined customs procedures.
But, the customs protocol agreed upon by the two nations has left some opportunity for the Djiboutian regulatory body, which is required to request certain documents in accordance with the treaty.
“Even though the protocol authorizes Djibouti Customs, it is not relevant for the Djiboutian regulatory body to request for the documents that are related, like tax or other domestic issues in Ethiopia,” experts said. As a result, the case should be resolved on the basis of mutual understanding between the two bodies.
“The smooth operation of the logistical activity is a requirement to reduce wasteful time and expense, but I believe there are provisions in the protocol that let the Djibouti side to interfere with the operation. Also, they are mentioned in the process for debate,” experts disagreed.
As a result, freight that is handled by multimodal monopoly Ethiopian Shipping and Logistics (ELS) has trouble getting containers to the center.
Capital learnt that the Ethiopian Freight Forwarders and Shipping Agents Association (EFFSAA) sent a letter to the appropriate government entity in order to find a solution for the cargo that are stuck in Djibouti.
Abebe claims that 168 containers handled by the state-owned multimodal logistics giant ESL are stuck in Djibouti as a result of the customs issue.
“If this large company runs into trouble, private logistics providers would have a bigger problem. I know that EFFSAA wrote a letter on the case, but I have no idea how much it has affected them,” he added.
According to data Capital got from the Ethiopian Customs Authority, the Commissioner, Debele Kabeta, has sent a letter to Djibouti Customs asking them to leave several demands that were made by since the cases are connected to the Ethiopian side, Djibouti Customs does not lift the case.
According to some analysts, since the case is in line with the protocol that the two sides signed, the matter should be resolved based on political commitment.
“In my perspective, the procedure should be altered to alleviate the issue, or difficulties will emerge in the future,” one expert who understands the matter stated.
The CEO of ESL, Roba Megersa, who was a member of the delegation that traveled to Djibouti, claimed that the situation has had an impact on his company’s operations.
At the most recent visit of the MoTL Minister, who met President Ismail Omar Guelleh, he claimed that the case had been brought up on various occasions and the President ordered the case to be solved immediately on consultation between the two customs.
The Ethiopian embassy has received a letter right away requesting that the situation be resolved as quickly as possible, according to Roba, who spoke to Capital.
He believed that the case will be resolved soon.
The head of the Ethiopian Customs Commission’s Djibouti branch, Aliyi Abdella, told Capital that the two customs will meet next week to resolve the case in accordance with the President’s directive, but he declined to provide further specifics.
Abebe added that the Djibouti Port and Free Zone Authority (DPFZA), had called him to ask him to write an official letter from the EMA headquarters to the Djibouti authorities about the matter.
The head of the EMA Djibouti Branch said, “Our Director General, Yehualashet Jemere, will formally send a letter for his counterpart, Aboubaker Omar Hadi, DPFZA Chairperson, with the purpose to ease the case.
In a similar development, the road issue was one of the topics that President Guelleh and Alemu discussed. Concerns have been raised by drivers regarding the state of the road from Dikhil to Galafi inside the Djibouti border.
During the conversation, it was revealed that Djibouti had obtained funding from Saudi Arabia and was currently conducting a contractor selection process for the 60 km road project.
Almost two years ago, Ethiopian Construction Works Corporation and Djibouti Ports Corridor Road agreed to build a 35 km asphalt road from Dikihil to Daguiro inside Djibouti as part of road restoration; however, the project was delayed due to prior payment.
In the most recent visit, the President gave the order to start the project as quickly as feasible and to disburse the advance payment before the upcoming Ramadan season.
Capital’s attempt to obtain more information from the Ethiopian Customs Authority was unsuccessful.

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