Ethiopia had two major ports, Aseb and Mitsiwa, on the Red
Sea coast. These ports accounted for about 93 percent of
Ethiopia's export-import trade. The port of Djibouti, which
operated as a free port, handled the remaining 7 percent of
Ethiopia's sea-borne freight. All three ports handled deepsea vessels, possessed some mechanized cargo-handling
equipment, and offered covered and open storage facilities.
The port of Aseb was connected by road with Addis Ababa.
Developed by the imperial government in the late 1950s,
Aseb, together with Djibouti, principally served Ethiopia's
central and southern areas. In l988 Aseb handled about 7l
percent of the export-import trade. In EFY l986/87, more
than 2.8 million tons of cargo transited Aseb, of which
about 66 percent consisted of imports, including about
792,000 tons of crude oil for Aseb's refinery. Although the
port of Aseb was not threatened, antigovernment forces
repeatedly attacked the Addis Ababa-Aseb highway.
Mitsiwa was connected to Asmera by road and by rail. Until
the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) captured
Mitsiwa in early 1990, the port handled traffic bound mainly
for the northern part of the country. Also, the Ethiopian
navy had stationed most of its ships at Mitsiwa. In EFY
1986/87, Mitsiwa handled about 470,000 tons of cargo, of
which imports made up about l4 percent.
Developments during the 1986-87 drought, when food aid
donated to Ethiopia rotted in storage facilities and ships
waited for weeks to unload their cargo, demonstrated the
inadequacy of the port of Aseb. In l988 the government
announced plans to build a new terminal at Aseb with a US$ll
million loan from the European Investment Bank. This
multipurpose terminal for general cargo, container ships,
and roll-on/roll-off vessels was to consist of a 6,400-
square-meter transit shed. The government expected the first
berth to be completed in l99l and the rest of the work to be
done by l992.
In addition to the major ports, there is a limited inland
water transportation system. The Baro River is navigable and
is used to transport goods to Sudan. Traders also transport
local goods on Lake Tana in the northwest and Lake Abaya and
Lake Chamo in the south. In EFY l986/87, about 2,000 tons of
cargo transited local waterways. A total of 98 percent of
this activity was on Lake Tana.
Data as of 1991