Protesters Block Port Sudan, Crippling Operations


Published Sep 23, 2021 11:44 PM by The Maritime Executive

Protestors have crippled operations at Sudan’s main port as the country sinks deeper into political and socio-economic crisis. The situation has been exacerbated by what the Sudanese transitional government describes as an attempted coup by military officers and civilians on Tuesday.

Demonstrators have blocked the main road connecting Port Sudan with the rest of the country since Friday last week, paralyzing operations at the main container and oil export terminals. They contend that they were locked out of a peace deal signed in October last year.

The peace deal was aimed at ending decades of conflict in Sudan and uniting the country behind a political transitional government, which was established following the ouster of former leader Omar al-Bashir in April 2019. The transitional government is tasked with overseeing a return to full civilian rule.

“The coup plotters tried to take advantage of the situation in different towns by closing ports and roads,” said Abdalla Hamdok, Sudan’s Prime Minister.

Port Sudan serves as a vital trading hub for Sudan’s economy, which has been crippled by years of sanctions that were imposed during al-Bashir’s regime. The U.S. has recently lifted most of the decades-old economic sanctions.

Economic rebound

Sudanese gross domestic product is projected to grow at 0.4 percent in 2021, according to the International Monetary Fund. The country has seen exports expand by 70 percent to reach $2.5 billion in the first half of the year. Port Sudan handles about 90 percent of the country’s foreign trade.

The Sudanese government has been trying to improve efficiency at Port Sudan, and in June this year contracted HPC Hamburg Port Consulting to assist in reducing vessel waiting time and increasing equipment availability at the South Port Container Terminal (SPCT).

From 2012 to 2019, container throughput at Port Sudan averaged 450,000 TEU annually, although the SPCT has a capacity of about one million TEU.

In 2018 Philippines-based port operator International Container Terminal Services (ICTSI) was awarded a 20-year concession to operate the terminal, but the agreement was swiftly canceled after port workers staged protests.