History of ESL

Historical Development of the Ethiopian Shipping and Logistics

The Ethiopian Shipping and Logistics is a merger of four enterprises which were working independently in the sea transport sector. These were Ethiopian Shipping Lines Share Company, Ethiopian Maritime and Transit Service Enterprise, Dry Port Enterprise; and the former Comet Transport Share Company which was consolidated in to the new company, August, 2016.

Among the major companies that has helped coming in to being of the new merger is the former Ethiopian Shipping Lines Share Company (ESL), established March 1, 1956 E.C with a capital of 50,000 (fifty thousand) Ethiopian birr. This establishment laid the corner stone for the development of modern sea transport in Ethiopia. When the shipping line was established, the American Towrus Investment had 51% and the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia 51% and Ministry of Finance 49% capital share. Later, ESL’s capital was made to upgrade to 375,000 (three hundred seventy thousand Birr). It was at this time, the enterprise had three ships built namely, Queen of Sheba, Lion of Judea, and Lalibella. Accordingly, one can infer that the enterprise has commercialized its service operation in 1956 E.C with these three ships built.

The Enterprise has acquired, the ships Adulis, 1959 E.C, Tana Hayke 1960 E.C, Ashenge 1961 and laid a sound foundation to march as best modern sea transport providing enterprise.

The enterprise as initiated in such a historical upheaval and advancing as a pioneer African shipping company could not sustain its initial development. Due to a war broken out between Israel and Egypt from 1959 – 1967 and the closing of Suez Canal has forced the enterprise vessels to voyage down through South Africa via West Africa to North. Because these routes were very much long and the vessels turn over voyages were very slow and the burden of cost of vessel fuel was very high it made the enterprise bankrupt.

The enterprise striving in such a way to sustain its existence faced a major challenge in the course of development due to a new upheaval observed in 1967 revolution and change of government and the new political economical ideology implemented in Ethiopia. The enterprise faith at this time was to be confiscated as a state public enterprise as it was to other manufacturing and public enterprises. The enterprise is given a name Ethiopian Shipping Line Corporation and it became a fully state owned company with a capital of 22 million Birr. After few years, the company’s capital reached 32 million Birr and it relatively made relieved itself from loss and it had begun to be profitable.

In order to strengthen its business capacity, it has brought second hand made ships namely Ras Dejen and Karamara, in 1967 E.C and 1970 E.C respectively and deployed them in operation. In subsequent years it has owned a tanker ship named Nebelbal in 1971 E.C and expanded its service rendering horizon.

Side by side the enterprise has discarded these worn out ships that terminated their service years and substituted them with other more capable vessels in subsequent years. Additionally it has brought Key Kokeb and Wol Wal ships in 1974 E.C and Meskerem and Abay Wonz in 1976 E.C and Abyot, Andinet and Netsanet in 1977 E.C and could generate outstanding Profit within a short period of time and it has boosted its cargo handling capacity in folds.

Besides building its capacity, during the nineteen sixties it has expanded its trade routes from the Red Sea to North and West Europe to Britannia and its vicinity, for example, North Eastern Europe, Mediterranean and Adriatic seas as well as Middle East and its neighboring countries.

The enterprise has progressed in its capacity building and bought the vessels Omo Wenz in 1978 E.C, Ziway and Chamo in 1980 E.C, Awash in 1981 E.C and have aggrandized its profitability, providing wider services for international and national import and export cargos. It has bought Admas in 1987 E.C, Tekeze in 1991 E.C, Shebelle in 1998 E.C and Gibe in 1999 and has provided effective sea transport services. Thus the capital of the enterprise has been increasing from time to time.

The other major enterprise that shares a significant part in the merger was Ethiopian Maritime and Transit Services Enterprise. That enterprise has been established in April 1960 E.C with a capital of 500,000 Birr to facilitate and expedite the movement of import and export cargoes. This enterprise has played its national role at all ports it has been functioning. And after the nations import and export cargoes were being served at Djibouti port, equipping itself with port machinery, effective service provision system and well-skilled human power it has handled all the tasks that are related with shipping and logistics services at major ports. Even before the Ethio – Ertirean war, the enterprise has mainly provided outstanding stevedoring shore handling, transit and inland transport services.

On the other hand, The Dry Port Enterprise established in 1999 has performed great tasks in reducing the cost, time and property losses at Djibouti port by implement dry port initiative and expansion projects. Though it’s a recent development, it has exhibited a tremendous port and ports related performance excellence.

Comet Transport Services Joined ESL, to provide inland transport service for import and export government as well as private sector cargoes with sound institutional capacity.

At this time, in a bid to build up an efficient sea transport and logistics system compatible private with the fast grow and development of the nation, with the help of favorable government policies, the four enterprises mentioned above have been merged in 2004 E.C.

The initial and approved capital of the new merger was 3.7 billion Birr. Looking the prospective capacity of the enterprise and its role the Council of Ministry on its plenary meeting have upgraded the capital from 3.7 billion to 20 billion Birr


To maintain the commendable economic growth that has been registered in the country over the last several years, one of the strategic measures taken by the Federal Government of Ethiopia is merging the former three public enterprises that have until recently been operating separately in a rather similar and interdependent maritime sub-sector; namely, Ethiopian Shipping Lines S.C, Maritime and Transit Services Enterprise and Dry Port Enterprise.

The Ethiopian Shipping and Logistics Services Enterprise (ESL for short) is the result of this merger. This newly amalgamated enterprise came into being following the issuance of Regulation by the Council of Ministers (Regulation No. 255/2011), and is vested with the huge responsibility of rendering sea-transport & logistics services to the country’s importers, exporters, and investors in a more effective and efficient way, by reducing transit time, cost and hand offs. Besides, a truck operating company named Comet Transport SC has recently been transferred to ESL following a government decree issued in the mid of 2014.

ESL has a multitude of vessels, heavy duty trucks, sea and dry port facilities, chicaneries, etc that enable it render efficient sea and land transport services as well as sea and dry port services.

ESL has its headquarters located in the heart of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with main branches at Djibouti, Modjo, and Kality (the former Comet) and other branches in Mekelle, DireDawa, Kombolcha, Semera and Gelan towns. It also has a Maritime Training Institute at a place called Babogaya in Bishoftu (former Debrezeit) Town.

The Enterprise is re-starting the building work of its Head Office, the process of which has been interrupted for some years due to construction related problems. The giant building in Laghar area is a 20 storey sky scraper that may accommodate all the enterprise’s functions at head office level, upon finishing, as well as partially serving as an apartment.

For further reading please download the amharic document here => Download