We speak to Jalal Eldin Shilia (JE), General Manager at Sea Ports Corporation, about the company’s vision of being a transshipment port, connecting east and west Africa
I N T E R V I E W
Sea ports corporation was established in 1974, as an independent state corporation of Sudan. It handles all Sudanese imports and exports, from governance to construction. Its network of four ports (one each for containers, dry bulk, general cargo and oil) together form Port Sudan. The port enjoys excellent access to roads and railways, connecting with international markets from east and west alike. In addition, the port links up with the African interior, and in particular with those countries in northern and western parts of the continent.
Port Sudan harbour is of great economic importance, as it was the only port through which Sudan’s oil products were exported before the south of the country separated in 2011, and even since then it continues to export South Sudan’s oil. Other key exports managed by the corporation include iron, minerals, agricultural products, livestock, liquefied petroleum gas and bitumen.
There is a great deal of potential for Port Sudan to develop its transshipment capacity, and strengthen its position as a logistical hub for cargoes travelling to and from Europe, Oceania, South America and Africa itself. Sea Ports Corporation has the capacity to diversify the Sudanese economy, ushering in more commerce, and clearing a space — a gateway — for the movement of exports.
LE: How is Sea Ports Corporation contributing to Sudan’s GDP?
JE: As a governmental organisation, whatever income we have should in theory go to the Ministry of Finance. However, we have a special arrangement with the government according to which we have to pass on only 40% of our income, meaning we are able to reserve 60% for our own development.
LE: How interested is Sea Ports Corporation in promoting itself as a transshipment port to China, Japan, and other investors who may not know about it?
JE: We are of course more than aware of Sudan’s strategic location on the Red Sea, which is a location that is not at all far from international routes, both to the east and to the south. That’s why we are constantly developing plans to fully benefit from our fortuitous location by attracting transshipment. For a start, we are increasing our capacity by extending the container handling equipment. Luckily we don’t have a problem with space in that we have enough unused land. In addition, we are strengthening our capacities more generally, in a bid to become a transshipment port that connects the east to the west.
LE: China is growing fast, with what is called a one-belt policy. What would be your message to Chinese shippers such that, instead of going to Mombasa, they might come to Port Sudan and use your facilities as a gateway into Africa?
JE: We have a lot of neighbouring land-locked countries, such as Ethiopia, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Chad, and all of them are dependent on our port. We feel that Port Sudan can also serve these land-locked countries beyond the facilities of the port itself. By connecting the port to roads and to a railway system, not only would Sudan benefit enormously, but all our neighbours would too. It is our ambition to find investors for the whole transport sector, thereby connecting Sudan and making the country a true transport hub.
LE: What type of investors do you believe would create the best synergy with the Port?
JE: To serve transshipment and transit, you need to build capacities and facilities. Of course, you cannot do that alone, so in that sense we would very much welcome investors to take part in the development of a bigger port that can serve the world. A fundamental need we have is for a supplier of equipment within such a port.
LE: Africa is now the second most favoured continent in which to invest after North America. Investors from Europe, China and Japan are all looking at this continent. What would be your message to them about choosing Sea Ports Corporation as a partner, and about choosing Sudan as their investment destination?
JE: To exploit the full potential of Africa, we need investors. Port Sudan is looking to be the gateway into Africa and we will be enthused to welcome all investors who can help us in that quest.