The Port of Assab: With or Without Ethiopia

By Madote,
assab-portThere is this lingering misconception among Ethiopians and a few regional analysts that Eritrea was financially gaining from Ethiopia when it used the port of Assab between 1991-1997. They also believe the port’s economic viability hinges on whether Ethiopia uses it at a future date.
These narratives are even more prevalent among the so-called opposition. For example,, an Ethiopian-backed extremist website, said:
“For Asseb to make any significance as a source of revenue for Eritrea, it has tosell its services to its neighborhood customers. Djibouti doesn’t need that service, Sudan doesn’t. Somalia, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and anyone and his stepfather doesn’t need that service. Ethiopia does and it is not buying that service.”
Similarly, In 2000, Meles Zenawi, the late Ethiopian Prime Minister, said:
“So if we use the Port of Assab, the benefit is not only for us, but for Eritrea, too. On the other hand, if we decide against using Assab, then the fate of Assab would remain to be a mere source of drinking water for camels. I made this clear to the diplomats. No more, no less. If we do not use the port of Assab, then the Eritrean government won’t get a single cent from Assab.”
Both these quotes suggest Eritrea needs Ethiopia to use its ports as a source of revenue or else, as Meles puts it, it will be a mere source of drinking water for camels. Ignoring the fact that animals can not drink sea water, Meles’ point is simple: without Ethiopia, Assab port will be nothing. But is this claim accurate?
Not quite.
When we compare the year Ethiopia stopped using Eritrea’s port (1998) with the year it used it (1997), we only see a 48% decline in the number of vessels docking in the port of Assab, which isn’t bad when you take into consideration Eritrea’s small population, and the fact that Assab is not the country’s main port.
As a result of the conflict, activity at Assab port declined markedly: some 322 vessels docked at the port in 1998, compared with 628 in the previous year. [1]
Another important fact that is conveniently left out by Meles and his ilk is when Ethiopia did use the port of Assab between 1991-1997, they were paying Eritrea nothing from a profit standpoint, let alone a ‘single cent’. As the IMF quote below shows, Ethiopia was using the port of Assab for free.
“As stipulated under an intergovernmental transit and port services agreement as well as a customs arrangement (amended annually), the port of Assab is a FREE port for Ethiopia, with its own Ethiopian customs branch office, and goods shipped to or from Ethiopia remain exempt from the Eritrean customs duties and related charges.”
Now, for those who continue to insist Eritrea needs Ethiopia to use its Assab port, on what grounds are they basing this off of? It certainly can not be based from an economical standpoint since Eritrea was not financially gaining from Ethiopia when they did use the port.
The truth is, whether Ethiopia uses Assab port or not has little to no bearing on Eritrea’s overall economy. Providing a port free of charge isn’t an indication a country is seeking to generate revenue from it; it’s a move a nation makes to show empathy for its landlocked neighbor.
Since Ethiopia stubbornly stopped using Eritrea’s port, it has payed dearly. According to Teferi Asfaw, deputy secretary-general of the Addis Ababa Chambers of Commerce and Sectoral Association, Ethiopia pays Djibouti a total of US$722.5 millionper annum and additional $22.6million in port tariffs.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Eritrea is more than willing to offer its port free of charge if Ethiopia vacates from sovereign Eritrean territories. For Eritrea, the port of Assab’s economic potential was never tied to a neighboring country using its services for profit. The leadership in Asmara understands certain things like good neighborly relations are more important than financially gaining from a country’s misfortune.
In conclusion, it’s not Eritrea that needs Ethiopia to use its ports for free; it’s Ethiopia that needs Eritrea to generously offer those free services. The notion that Ethiopia is hurting Eritrea economically because it irrationally decided to stop using their free port to pay Djibouti nearly US$750 million per annum is absurd. Even today, with all that has gone on, Eritrea is still ready to offer its port without charge if Ethiopia decides to respect international law and end its occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories.
Source: Tesfanews.


  1. i think the Assab port could have served South Sudan as well, given there are ‘ sanity on both sides’.. I think, Dibouti port is superior to Assab for the port has been modernized by Dubai Ports, a formidable port operator in the World. The only way this can be achieved is if the Eritrean authorities delegated the management of the port to a comparable capable port operator for the amount of investment needed to improve the infrastructure is steep. This said, the fact that both Eritrea and Ethiopia are about to exploit their billion tonn potash deposits, it will be in their interest to step aside their ‘ difference’ and cooperate on the mutually beneficial development of the port facilities in Assab. Had there been ‘ rational minds’, there could have been ‘ baby steps’ towards this goal. The ‘ border issue’ could be put on the ‘ back burner’ and the two countries could have taken steps to have the international banks finance electric transmission lines, by private enterprises. Once the juice is on the border, these two sisterly states could have cooperated to settle the rest of their ‘ thorny issues’ Even if the govts are not willing to undertake this expensive projects, risk takers should give it a shot so that to bring lasting peace in the Region. NOTHING LIKE INTERDEPENDENCE TO AVOID BLOOD SHED. DJIBOUTI is getting fresh water from Ethiopia free of charge along with extremely cheap electricity. Why shouldn’t Eritrea benefit from such scheme. ONCE THIS PROCESS IS UNDERWAY, the peace process will sure follow suit. The win-win solution is a ‘ tricky’ business. give and take is a way nations have stayed intertwined. So, let us try what ever makes sense for to get the process going!

    • Next Call, you go and offer such advices to your Shabia. Ethiopia doe not depend on Shabia; the port Asseb will be dealt when the time comes. When both Shabia and TPLF expires. For now, Ethiopia is fine without Shabia. Let shabia continue partnering with Alshabab and then Eritrea will boom with more refugees because of Shabia. Shabia’s dream to destroy Ethiopia, not to work with Ethiopia. You can change Shabia, Shabia is rich, civilized, Ethiopia is backward, primitive country and poor. Eritrea a rich country, with very civilized leaders, so what does a poor country Ethiopia has to do with the richest country on the planet Eritrea? We are also black people, Shabians Caucusians or Arabs, actually there is no unite human like Shabians on this planet. They are not black, they do not even belong to Africa, they are superhuman from another planet, they are on earth for a holiday. Eritrea itself is not on earth, it is our virtual neibhour, otherwise, Eritrea itself is located on Mars on another planet. Eritrea more natural resources than the entire world combined. Ethiopia has no any resources? haha ha, a poor country Ethiopia with richest country on earth Eritrea are not a match. It is good for Shabia to use its untapped ziollion’s of resources without Ethiopia. The reconciliation between Ethiopia and Shabia by Shabia’s death, baby killers.

      • Gezaee, i have read many of your threads, i know what you ‘ stand for’. My idea is not ‘ conventional’ but pragmatic. I don’t think much of the ‘ regime’ in Eritrea let alone be a ‘ shabia’. But my ideas will undermine the ‘ stubborn’ shabia once we have relayed the electric transmission lines to energy- starved Eritrea. My idea is to step aside the ‘ thorny issue’ of Bademe and allow some sort of dependency to make peace with a a nation which has been a ‘ thorn on our side. my proposals will undermine the basic ‘ siege mentality’ of the Eritrean regime,Which, in turn, will lead to reforms , whether it is to its liking or not. A nation which sells electricity, will not be an adversary. The whole idea is to undermine those who are for a ‘ show down’ sooner or later, be they those who hold power in Asmara. economic interdependence is an important scheme. Say Asmara is getting cheap electricity from Ethiopia, how is anyone to state that Ethiopia is an ‘ enemy’ hell bent on crushing Eritrea…………..We have to be more conniving than our adversaries. btw, i am not an Eritrean but the stalemate is not my ‘ cup of cake’ and think we have to find a ‘ middle ground’ to stem the clear and present danger posed by forces along the Nile Delta who might use it as their stepping stone to implement their devious plans. Speaking about ‘and rich Ethiopia,and prosperous Tigrai’ why are close to a quarter of a million Tigrians being chased from Saudi Arabia…………..

        • Dear Next call,
          I hear what you say; you recognize Eritrea as a country and you are telling me let us do with business with Shabia forgetting Shabia? I do not get it to be honest. What you are talking does not make sense to me but I respect your opinion.
          I do not recognize Eritrea as a country myself. This is not because I hate Eritreans. It is because I love them and I know well, independence is not in their favour but against them. I strongly believe the whole Eritrean saga was used by foreign forces to divide Ethiopians, not to benefit Eritreans.
          Sir Next call, my idea is bigger than yours. I do believe there must never be a country called Eritrea in the first place and Eritreans must get the electricity as citizens not as foreigners. Ethiopia must electrified from Massawa to Mersabit or Moyane and Ethiopian railway networked from Moyale to Massawa. No need for a country called Eritrea; it is not in the interest of Eritrean themselves and that has been proved by time and events taking place in that artificial and virtual country. I do not understand why have a nanocountry called Djibouti? This tiny country is only set up to benefit foreign forces, but not Djobutians. The people in Egypt are Ethiopians too. There is no even a need for Djibouti. We need to work has hard to unite our people and have prosperous Ethiopia. There is no need for virtual tiny countrylets and satellite countries carved out of Ethiopia only to serve foreign forces. I suggest you support my idea instead.

      • What a useless but baised idea. can you leave us and live your misurable life. ASAB is ETHIOPIAN we will take it back when the time has arrived

    • Ertitreans fought for independence and went their own ways. But the disaster for East Africa and the sell out for Ethiopia remained in Addis with all their malicious plot against our country.
      It is justice to leave Eritrea alone as we should focus on the worst of Ethiopian enemies Woyane. It is logical and natural that you have to first destroy the inside enemy before you go for the out side. Never miss place priority.
      The enemy is one and only one , Woyane!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. You must be one of those pinheads who still believe there is hope with EPLF? As far as I am concerned, the Port of Assab is no use to Ethiopia as long as TPLF and EPLF are in power. A government elected and supported by the Ethiopian people will bring back what was ours. And let me say this – The late PM of Ethiopia was a smart man. He knows the salty water of the Red sea is not drinkable. His reference to the camel drinking is a Metaphor. Get your facts straight.

  3. The Habesha, I think you love about begging? do u? why are you posting this crap article ? This is an insult Zehabesha. I think you G7 people have lost orientation and you try to tell us Issayas is good. The writer is telling Eritrea does not beg Ethiopia but Ethiopia do beg Eritrea’s port? I am offended by posting stupid articles from Shabia.
    Ethiopia does not need empathy from Shabia. Eritrea does not need free gift port from Shabia. Ethiopia has 100% ownership rights its ports. Neither Meles nor anybody can deny Ethiopia its natural right. It is a matter of time Zehabesha.
    Zehabesha, and ESAT, you are killing yourself by posting anti-Ethiopians articles and news shows because of your bizarre support of Mengistu Hailemariam an Issayas, you are really losing the public by doing this things.
    The other thing Zehabesha, if you are a professional journalist, you do not post an article with no author because it tells you the author has no integrity and dignity to stand for he writes. It is not professional to publish article without an author.
    To madate, Shabia, we do not need your free services. The port is ours and it is a matter of time, until woyane disappear then everything will change. Sell it for free to somebody else, badme, do not even think about it for a second, It will never happen. If EPRDF that today, EPRDF will get buried the next day. Sir, it is not only Asseb, but we arrest Issayas and his cohorts and make them pay for the100 000 souls perished by the useless war you ignited. You must know you are indebt now of 100 000 souls of Ethiopians. You telling me to give you the blood of 100 000 souls flowing like river? The only choice is to try to get badme by war and that will end the history of Eritrea itself. Did not you not occupy it by force and refused for almost year to vacate peacefully? You evicted by force against your will? is that not true? Do not dream to get badme, even if TPLFgive it away, It will not work. Stop dreaming, you will not get an inch of land from Ethiopia after now, It is mostly likely Eritrea will either join its mother land or lose 3/4 of its current coastal line. Nothing less or more than that. Alas, you boasted to get badme by military force and you were begged by Rwanda, USA, to vacate peacefully and negotiate and you refused. did not you? now come around begging for it to be given to you on gold plate as if nothing happened? You must be joking Sir.

  4. Wow!!! What a well written Eritrean propaganda. Who the hell need to do anything with Shabia? Assab is a part of Ethiopia. No regime in Addis Ababa will accept this ludicrous proposal you are making. Give us your land and well let you use Assab is laughable. It is a matter of time that the so called Ertirean regime will crumble like house of cards. Eritrea so divided along religion lines, the country is not viable to stay as a state. One day the Ethiopian navy once agin roaming over the Red Sea. Our historical enemies from Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt are dying. Our beautiful flag will fly over our war ships and out national anthem will be hared all the way to Asmara!

  5. This is a shallow analysis. What about the general business and financial activity of the port which is tide with the transit activity of Ethiopian shipment through Assab? My friend forget it and your argument is not convincing at all.

  6. Assab was/is Ethiopian, if it wasn’t for Meles (Eritrean) who handed over in a silver platter. Thus, Shaebia Should vacate Assab then talk is possible.

  7. Ethiopia maybe landlocked, but Eritrea economical lifeline and future economics gridlocked without Ethiopia.
    This article is bias against Ethiopia, the truth is Ethiopia have many cheaper options to import its goods to Ethiopia, included Dejibuti port, Somalia ports and Kenya ports and via air transportation.
    On the other hand Eritrea have only one option/one customer(Ethiopia).

  8. HI
    This is a EPLF porpaganda to mislead Ethiopians to accept the unacceptable. Ethiopia has both historical and legal right to Assab and the Afars have again and again said they are Ethiopians and Ethiopians alone.
    Now the issue will be what the Government of Ethiopia will do, will it stand up for Ethiopia or continue on the wrong path? will we ethiopians allow this or would we stand for our rights as did our parents and grand parents?.
    The choice is in the hand of each of us.

  9. @ Mr. zena ewante,
    Ethiopia becoming and resembling more like the new Russia, natural resource and potential rich Ethiopia surrounded by many of these hopeless impoverished small countries like Eritrea etc…, there mere short and long term survivals directly and indirectly linked and connected to Ethiopia. Just like Russia, Ethiopia must flex its power by dangling the carrots with consideration of mutual interest, and those refused to work within given opportunity and platform must be shutout to impose further economic hardship, they must accept the status quo proposal or let them sink.

  10. kkkkkk What a fool is the writer. Why would Eritrea give ‘its’ port for free, in exchange for a stone covered barren land, if it can make money off of it, as the righter claims? Or is this diplomatic way of begging Ethiopia to use the port (which I believe will be returned to Ethiopia, when the right admin is in 4 killo)? Eritrea is poor and destitute to sustain itself.

  11. I think the writer is completely naive in suggesting that ethiopia was using the assab port for free before the ethiopia and eritrea conflict. Before the conflict Eritria was part and parcel of the TPLF regime and they were benefiting in all aspects of ethiopian economic activities. The writer to suggest that eritria is willing to allow ethiopia to use Assab for free of charge if ethiopia agrees to leave Badme is ridiculous and absurd. First of all Eritrea miscalculated badly in starting a conflict and going to a war with its big neighbor Ethiopia for a piece of land which is unproductive. Whether the writer would like to accept it or not Eritrea’s future prosperity or lack of it will depend on with its relation with its big neighbor Ethiopia. My advice for the Eritrean leadership is not to be stubborn for unproductive and rocky land and make peace with your big neighbor Ethiopia. This in turn would benefit the Eritrean economy and create a lot of jobs for its young peolle. However, this would not be a reality until Isayas Afewerki is in power. Isayas Afewerki should and must go for real peace to be created among the two people.

    • You must be kidding man; Issayas Agenda is not to co-exist with Ethiopia, if God allows him his vision is to dismantle Ethiopia into piece and that is Shabia’s agenda and ideology. Shabia has no ideology but hating Ethiopia is their guiding principel and ideology.

    If we hold referendum today to Eritrean mass to cast their vote regarding the independence, I am sure 92% of Eritreans will vote to join with Ethiopia. Since Eritreas economy and future potential is nil/zero, unless by some miracle Eritrea discover big reserve of oil, which I highly doubt since the geology study shows the oil reserve deposit is in Afar region of tigray not in Eritrea.

  13. Wow !! Zehabesha? are you really Ethiopian Mr editor…? you just start to act like that of Shabia and tplf little agent? Who told you asab should be left for your shabia and tplf anti Ethiopian goons? You have to apologize to the Ethiopian people for putting such anti Ethiopian interest in your website. posting of this article is a liable against you for future discourse on the Ethiopian interest.

  14. This is a trick that Shabia and Woyane started recently. Ethiopia and Ethiopians do not want Assa or Eritria. Go to Red Sea with Assab and your port. Leave us. We do not need parasites

  15. What is going on zehabesha? And where is patrotism? is it not insulting our intelegence? We are not a kind of people to be adviced by this lay man. The reality is not what the writer wrote, the Eritrean government is unable to maintain the cost hence the port is not functional and needs hell of money to bring it in to its former glory, the repairment cost is beyond Eritrean conomy, they can beg us humbly not cleverly. I urge citizens to read an Amharic book ‘Asseb yemanchi’ by Dr Yaqob in the mean time I would like readers to jump dr Yaqob’s suggestion as a solution I think it is chapter 12 his suggestion do not favour Ethiopia. Thank you fellow Ethiopians for condmening it in one voice

  16. I know this article will raffle some Amhara chauvnistic bigots and the hope less woyane yankee work horses’; they will go mad when they read an honest artilce about Eritrea and Ethiopia.

  17. This is cheap assumption wrapped as analysis. The writer should take the pre-Bademe baseline figure and compare Assab with Djibouti.This is so because both ports serve basically Ethiopia and there would not be much error variable. Then do likewise for the current year between Assab and Djbouti. Account the difference and attribute it as a “lost business” to Assab. Do your homework and come back again and you will see how much Eritrea lost a cash cow…

  18. the Eritrean military movement knows very well this is a simple cheap propaganda prepared to cheat on the one hand the Eritrean people to think that the dictator riigime is trying to establish a relation ship with Ethiopia,and to falsely hope.on the otherhan d it is fullishly designed to give a false information for the Ethiopian people not to use the djibouto port and to use the assab port.this is designed from the presuure the Eritrean dicator faces.
    one thing that should be considered is that these fullish ginbot 7 medias are currently airing and publicating these hope less dictarors mission and plan.On the other hand the dictator regime is planning to arrest all the Ethiopian opposition members found in Eritrea na.the ginbot 7 members and executives are now under 24 hour monitoring.
    The dictatorial regime ,Isayas himself has told the sudanse presedent that if gets only a positive sign from Ethiopia ,he will take over the se Ethiopian opposition members immediately.eritrean military MOVEMENT Hs hS A FULL INFORMATION.

  19. I thought the Eritrean issue was amicably fulfilled in 1993. Why the need for a port offer now? Eritrea has already transformed itself into the Singapore of the Horn of Africa since then? Right? Singapore does not have the need or the urgency to offer another nation in the Horn of Africa a port. I highly suggest to you Eritreans to focus on your scientific and industrial prowess to send the first manned space craft to Mars or otherwise to the moon this or next year!!! Bon voyage!!!!

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