Djibouti scraps DP World port concession citing corruption

Djibouti’s government said it has rescinded DP World’s concession at the Doraleh Container Terminal after finding evidence of corruption and has begun arbitration proceedings.

The agreement was canceled after an investigation that showed an accord signed with the company “unfairly favored” DP World, according to a statement e-mailed by Consulum, a London- based communications consultancy, on behalf of the government. Talks aimed at resolving the matter have broken down and the state will seek damages for losses it has incurred, it said.

DP World rejected the accusations and will “vigorously defend our position during arbitration,” the Dubai-based company said in an e-mailed response to a request for comment.

“We are disappointed that the government has chosen to take this action after working so closely with us as partners over the past 14 years,” the company said.

Djibouti’s $1.2 billion economy relies on services related to the country’s location on the Red Sea, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. Transport accounts for a third of gross domestic product in the Horn of Africa nation, which is targeting doubling capacity at Doraleh to 3 million containers a year by 2015. DP World is the world’s third-biggest ports operator.

The government will take “all necessary steps to ensure the continued smooth running of its ports,” it said in the statement. The terminal is the country’s largest employer.

DP World and Djibouti’s government established a joint venture in 2006 with the signing of a 30-year concession to operate the container terminal, which the company describes as “the most technologically advanced” depot in Africa.

The facility, inaugurated in 2009, has a 1.05 kilometer-long quay and the capacity to handle eight super-post-panamax cranes, according to its website.

The government offered DP World the opportunity to continue running the port until the arbitration tribunal ruling.

“Whether or not DP World accepts that offer, Djibouti has measures in place to avoid any disruption to the increasing number of customers using its facilities,” it said.

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