Estimates of the losses resulting from the shutdown efforts targeting the ports and the national road linking eastern Sudan with the rest of the country by the protesters were varying, but observers unanimously agreed on the danger of the continuation of these efforts, while questioning how to compensate for those losses.
AlTaghyeer: Elfadil Ibrahim
Day after day, the losses resulting from the shutdown of the main port in Port Sudan and the national road linking eastern Sudan with the rest of the country – by supporters of the Chairperson of the Beja Tribal Leaders Council, Muhammad Al-Amin Tirk – are increasing. Tirk, and his followers, are calling for the abolition of the “eastern path” in the Juba Peace Agreement that.
The closure of the port and main roads was followed by great financial losses and the creation of scarcity in the capital and the states. The Sudanese Council of Ministers even sounded the alarm on the shortage of life-saving medicines.
The Central Chamber of Wheat confirmed that the available stock should suffice the country’s needs for about a month, while a gathering of bakery owners in Khartoum state warned of a real scarcity in bread flour and a decline in the quotas for bakeries as a result of the closure.
The daily revenue loss for closing the ports was estimated at approximately 250,000 euros, amid questions about who pays for the losses, with the only certainty being that the citizen is the first and most unfortunate victim.
The southern port, which unloads about 1,250 containers per day, accounts for 85% of Sudan’s exports and imports, is completely closed, while other news indicate that there is limited activity in the northern port, and that many Sudanese exporters and importers have turned to using Ain Sukhna port in Egypt.
A member of the secretariat of the Ports Employees and Workers Association, Siddiq Samra, said that the closure took place on the last Friday of last month, after which the Sawakin port was closed, other ports were partially working, but their activity is weak due to the work link with each other.
The losses of the Sawakin and Osman Digna port account for 20-25 billion Sudanese pounds per day, while losses at the southern port amount to 8,737,641 euros daily.
Samra described to AlTaghyeer that “the long pause will lead to the breakdown of machines, therefore making it difficult to operate them again, especially since these equipment work unmanned as they have been corroded by pressure and any stoppage will affect them greatly, and restarting them would require a tremendous efforts.”
Samra noted that there are about 14 thousand workers in the port, and that – regardless of political aspects – their situation is directly tied to the overall situation in the east of Sudan, and thus suffers greatly from the current economic crisis the region is going through, and the rise in prices.
“But the fact of the closure came at a time when production began to rise more than before, after repairing some malfunctions and the entry of 2 cranes into service,” he added.
The Ports Employees and Workers Association member referred to proposals made by some workers to have work partially resumed in the port, with the continuation of the closure so that, at the same time, this matter would not infringe upon the demands of the opponents of the Juba agreement’s “Eastern Path”.
Samra stressed the need for development and improvement in the port so that it could rise to the level of international ports. Currently, in light of the crisis, Egypt has welcomed the passage of Sudan’s exports through its territory; a matter which indicates the hypothesis of an axial conflict in the region.
He stated that the closure indicates that there is a hidden scheme, perhaps from parties that are trying to exploit the crisis in the east to dry up the port, as the dream of privatization is still alive in some.
He added: “If the southern port was of importance, the negotiating delegation would find a solution for it, as happened in the Bashayer Oil Port – the Southern Oil Line.”
A statement of the Chamber of Transport – obtained by AlTaghyeer– revealed the seizure of more than 1,000 trucks, including 500 trucks loaded with wheat and goods, 200 fuel tanks, 100 ferns for electricity, 50 gasoline tanks designated for the states, 10 jet fuel tanks, and 30 fuel tanks belonging to the Kenana Sugar Company.
The statement also referred to 349 cargo trucks seized in Port Sudan and 120 trucks of grain silos, with the Chamber itself estimating its daily losses at $300,000.
Professor of Economics, Ibrahim Anwar, described the repercussions of closing the Port of Sudan and the National Road as devastating for the Sudanese economy.
Anwar revealed to AlTaghyeer that directives were issued by international organizations specialized in navigating ships to not pay fees in Sudan’s ports as a result of political problems.
He stated that some companies and the government will be forced to pay very high costs as a result of the delay in unloading some ships whose arrival coincided with the first days of the closure, as the cost of the delay per day is 25,000 dollars, and there are stored and impounded goods and containers whose owners will be greatly affected.
Reliance on Imports
Anwar noted that most of Sudan’s basic needs “food, spices and production inputs” are imported at a rate of 80% from abroad.
He pointed out that the country was not affected during the last period by the closure due to the presence of a reserve of these materials, but it is starting to run out and the gap will appear in the coming days, especially in flour and food supplies.
Anwar called on the government to move quickly to solve the problem of the east, even if it was forced to cancel the route and open the port, and then negotiate politically to solve the problem.
The Secretary-General of the Sudanese Exporters Chamber, Mohamed Suleiman, confirmed to AlTaghyeer that the damage from closing the port increases every day, and its losses are in the billions.
He revealed that the total losses brought on the exporters amounted to one billion dollars a month, and indicated that during the past six months they had exported the value of “6” billion dollars.
He stated that the damage is greatly affecting four main sectors “exporters, importers, transport rooms and shipping agencies.”
He pointed out that they addressed the Ministry of Finance and the Ports Administration to address the issue of seized goods at the ports, for which ground fees were on the increase daily.
With regard to the political crisis, Suleiman confirmed that they addressed the Federation of Employers to take an initiative to solve the problem.
For his part, the Secretary-General of the Traveling Bus Chamber, Hassan Abdullah, explained that the Chamber’s employees were not affected by the closure as a result of the existence of an agreement that allows them to pass as government vehicles.
Abdullah revealed to AlTaghyeer that 30 bus trips from Port Sudan to the rest of Sudan, and 18 trips from Khartoum to Port Sudan have all managed to get through.
He noted that the road closure at the Northern state lasted for only a few hours, while bringing to attention that the current economic situation and COVID-19 have led interstate bus travel to drop by 40% from what it was previously.
Drying up the Port
Mahmoud Badli, a leader in eastern Sudan, did not write off the possibility of the closure of the ports in the east being orchestrated by “outside parties” that seek to dry up the port in Port Sudan and Sawakin and bring about mass layoffs to its workers.
Ernment to Badli, during his talk with AlTaghyeer, called the “sons of east Sudan to be weary and careful of rallying behind this scheme in order to not inflict future self-harm, as the shutdown of the port constitutes a tragedy for the people of the east who primarily rely on the ports.”
He added that there are calls now to use nearby ports in Egypt as substitutes, which he described as unbeneficial for Sudan or even “the sons of the east who are wrecking their own homes, and we hope they wake up before it is too late.”
The leader in the east revealed that the attempts to “dry up” the port have been going on since the reign of Omar al-Bashir and until this very moment.
Muzamil al-Kardi, the Secretary General of the Chamber of Importers, revealed that the chamber has held a meeting dedicated to discussing the effects of the port closure.
Al-Kardi told AlTaghyeer briefly that the merchants and importers already had problems and ground fees that were the result of a system malfunction that last for 10 days before the closure, leading to goods not being cleared and resulting in an increase in said ground fees. When the closure occurred, the fees had then doubled.
Poisoning the Cause
The Seaport Authority’s workers and employees called on the government to solve the issue in an unbiased manner that expresses those rights so that the people in the east can enjoy the type of citizenship that they have always longed for.
The Seaport assembly statement said that there are those who wish to inject poison into the eastern cause to achieve personal gains from the Sudanese ports “because of their economic and geographical importance that drives foreign hands, traitors, and opportunists, salivating over it.”
The assembly also revealed their unrelenting defense of Sudan against all that infringes upon the citizens and the sovereignty of the Sudanese state.