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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
24 August 2006

SOMALIA: Mogadishu port re-opens after 11 years

NAIROBI, 24 Aug 2006 (IRIN) - As another sign of improved security in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, the country's main port was officially re-opened on Thursday after more than 11 years.

"The chairman of the courts [Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed] officially opened the port today [Thursday]," said Sheikh Umar Ahmed Weheliye, the port manager.

The city is now run by the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), which controls much of south and central Somalia.

The UIC on 4 June defeated a group of warlords who called themselves the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter Terrorism, who had controlled the city for the past 16 years. Abdi Hassan Awale Qeybdid, the last member of the alliance, was defeated and escaped from the city on 10 July.

The opening of the port a month after the last warlord was removed is welcome news to the business community, said businessman Salad Ali.

"In a matter of one month they [the UIC] have restored security, opened the airport and now the port. That is an incredible achievement by any standards, but in our case this is nothing short of a miracle," said Ali.

The business community in Mogadishu has, since 1995, been using the beach port of El Ma'an, 30 km north of the city, which was expensive and time-consuming. "Since ships could not dock, cargo was offloaded on small boats that would bring it ashore. On many occasions cargo was dropped in the sea and the business people had to absorb the loss or pass it on to the consumer," Ali said.

They also had to deal with roadblocks manned by different militias, who extorted money from the trucks delivering goods to the city, adding to the cost of the goods.

Now it will take fewer man-hours to offload ships, less time to deliver the goods and with minimum losses. "This means that everything will be cheaper to the consumer," Ali said.

The opening of the port would also increase the amount of import and export trade and as a consequence create jobs, Ali added.

Weheliye, who was appointed to his post four weeks ago by the UIC, said he and his team had spent the past three weeks repairing and cleaning the port. "The port fell into disrepair since no one has taken care of it in the last 11 years. There were also tonnes of garbage that accumulated in that time."

He said the port would now be able to take vessels of up to 8,000 tonnes and "will soon be operating at full capacity once we get all the equipment we need".

Weheliye said the port will also ease the difficulties faced by aid agencies in delivering assistance to needy Somalis.

The first ship, carrying fuel, is expected to dock on Thursday or Friday, he said.



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