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Sudanese advocacy group warns against privatization of Port Sudan


September 19, 2017 (KHARTOUM) - Sudan Democracy First Group (SDFG), an independent advocacy group, has warned against the privatization of Sudan’s major port on the Red Sea, Port Sudan, saying the move entails serious economic, security and social consequences.

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FILE - A Sudanese navy patrol boat patrols the waters close to where the Iranian Kharg replenishment ship and the Corvette Admiral Naghdi are docked in the Red Sea Sudanese town of Port Sudan on October 31, 2012. (ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP/Getty Images)

In a report released on Monday, the SDFG demanded the government to reveal the details of offers presented by some foreign companies to manage Sudan’s ports in order to end what it described as “state of secrecy, ambiguity and speculation surrounding the matter”.

Inaugurated in 1909, Port Sudan is the principal seaport of Sudan, located on the Red Sea coast. It also serves as a maritime gate for a number of landlocked African countries including Ethiopia, Chad, Central Africa Republic and Congo.

In 2016, the UAE-based Dubai Ports World (DP World) offered to manage and operate Port Sudan seaport.

According to the SDFG, the recommendation of the committee formed by Sudan’s minister of transportation, roads and bridges to study the offer of the DP World was shrouded in mystery.

It is noteworthy that the abovementioned committee concluded that the southern container port should be put in a concession tender for foreign companies operating in the ports.

It warned against leaked information that the DP World offer didn’t include any obligations towards the port workers or the local community.

The report pointed out that Port Sudan seaport is considered the main source of income for many residents in the Red Sea state especially the loading and unloading cargo workers.

It added that thousands of households would lose their only source of income due to the privatization of the port, saying about 7,000 permanent workers and 30,000 temporary workers will be laid off.

“Privatization may also lead to security, economic and social problems. The Sea Ports Corporation has already dismissed 3,500 temporary workers at the beginning of this year in preparation for the privatization of the port before returning 230 of them to work later under the pressure of protests,” said the SDFG.

The report also warned against the weak security controls on the movement of exports and imports which could lead to the proliferation of suspicious activities via the port, such as arms trade, illegal drug and gold smuggling, and human trafficking.

The SDFG pointed out that privatization would benefit other ports in the region at the expense of Port Sudan as was the case with the port of Aden in Yemen with DP World, saying the latter was accused of weakening the port of Aden for the benefit of the UAE’s ports especially Jebel Ali.

On 5 August, the Khartoum-based Al-Saiha newspaper reported that five international companies, French, Filipino and others, have indicated their desire to inspect the southern port of Port Sudan in preparation to discuss the possibility of applying for its concession bid.

The southern port of Port Sudan which is intended to be privatized is the only container port in Sudan. It receives 300 ships a year, at a minimum rate of 40,000 containers a month, that is 55 containers per hour.

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