DP World, the world's fourth largest ports operator,said on Monday itwill build an economic free zone in Somaliland to capitalise on strong growth at the Port of Berbera, which the group has been managing since last year.
A total of 12.2 square kilometres of land has been earmarked for the Berbera Free Zone (BFZ), which is to be modelled on Dubai's Jebel Ali Free Zone (Jafza), the Middle East region's biggest free zone.
The Dubai-based ports operator signed a 30-year concession agreement to manage the Port of Berbera in May 2016. In September 2017, the port recorded a 40 per cent year-on-year increase in container volumes – the highest total volumes in the port’s history, DP World said in a statement.
The new economic zone aims to position Berbera as a gateway port for east Africa, by encouraging investments and trade in the warehousing, logistics, manufacturing and related businesses.
DP World will develop the free zone in phases, with the first phase focusing on 4 sq km of land, according to the terms of a deal signed this week between Somaliland's foreign affairs minister Saad Shire and DP World group chairman and chief executive, Sultan bin Sulayem.
The capital required from DP World to develop the zone and details about the phases will be announced after the project gets approved by Somaliland’s new government following elections on November 13, DP World said.
It added that each phase would start once the previous one has achieved 85 per cent occupancy.
The ports operator has begun implementing a masterplan for the Port of Berbera, including an additional 400-metre container terminal, upgrades to existing facilities and new equipment.
“Somaliland’s development opportunities…has parallels with the start of our own growth in Dubai and the UAE," said Mr bin Sulayem. "Our vision is to make Berbera a trading and transportation hub for the Horn of Africa.”
DP World last month reported a 13.5 per cent year-on-year increase in gross container volumes in the third quarter across its global portfolio, thanks to an improved trading environment.