On Sunday January 31, 2020, the Ethiopian government launched the construction of a railway project contracted to a Chinese firm. The railway projected when completed is expected to improve petroleum cargo services in the East African country.
Highly dependent on imported-petroleum products, the Government of Ethiopia laid the foundation of the railway project connecting the central Ethiopian market town of Awash and Djibouti, which is contracted by China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC).
Ethiopia has completed the Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway in the central-eastern part, and the Awash-Kombolcha-Woldia railway in the north, to facilitate petroleum cargo services. The new project is part of the country’s aspiration to connect strategic railway lines.
State Minister of Transport Awol Wagais commended the anticipated project as a necessary addition to Ethiopia’s transport system.
Given existing long hard routes, a train tour from the Port of Djibouti to central Ethiopia usually costs three or four days, which “resulted in shortage of petroleum products in some parts of the country,” Wagais said during the groundbreaking ceremony at Awash.
However, “the just-launched construction project, unlike its predecessor, is expected to create a vibrant and inclusive trading centre,” he said, adding “the desired petroleum products will arrive in their preferred place and place without any hurdles.”
The rail line, scheduled to be completed within one year, could carry two oil tanker trains per day and achieve an annual delivery capacity of 1.3 million tons in the near future. In the long run, its transport capacity would rise to six trains per day.
Executive director and general manager of CCECC Ethiopia, Guo Chongfeng, stressed the socioeconomic advantages the project will bring to the country.
“When completed, it will significantly improve the efficiency of oil transportation, enhance the operation capacity of the oil depot, and relieve the pressure of oil supply in Ethiopia,” Guo explained.
The project also includes the construction of Awash Station, which “will definitely become an important transportation hub and will also strengthen the connection between the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway and the Awash-Kombolcha-Woldia railway,” the Chinese executive added.
Echoing Wagais’ remarks, Tadesse Hailemariam, CEO of the Ethiopian Petroleum Supply Enterprise, said “I expect a lot from this project as this links a main rail with Awash Depot and again with the Horizon Depot in Djibouti so that the products could arrive inland.”
Chinese companies have become major partners of Ethiopia in railway construction.
The Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway, as the first electrified transnational railway in East Africa, is contracted by two Chinese companies, China Railway Group and CCECC. It provides various freight services to locals, including transportation of perishable goods, vehicles, cereals and fertilizers.