Landlocked Ethiopia, which lost its access to the Red Sea nearly three decades ago, plans to build a Navy as part of military reforms.
The country disbanded its Navy in 1991 after its then-province Eritrea seceded in the wake of a three-decade war for independence. Ethiopia maintains a maritime institute that trains seafarers.
“Following the efforts made to build capacity of our national defense, we built one of the strongest ground and air forces in Africa,” Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said during a meeting with senior military officials. “We should build our naval force capacity in the future.”
Abiy’s remarks were made as Gulf states are stepping up investments in seaports along the Red Sea and East Africa’s coast to vie for influence in a strategic corridor that is vital for shipping lanes and oil routes. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey are using some of the ports for military purposes.
In May 2018, Ethiopia and Sudan agreed on a deal that lets Ethiopia take a stake in Sudan’s largest sea gateway, Port Sudan, to diversify outlets and reduce port fees. The deal was made two days after Ethiopia reached a similar arrangement over the Port of Djibouti, Djibouti’s main gateway for trade.
Ethiopia signed a deal to take a stake in the port of Djibouti, which now handles roughly 95 percent of all its exports and imports, the BBC reported. It also completed a 759-kilometer railway line to Djibouti and its port.