Djibouti as a main maritime passage and a main trading route between East and West stretches back since 3500 years, the time of maritime explorations of the Red Sea. A strategic meeting point between two worlds (Africa and Asia) the Red Sea was a place of contact and passage used by the Egyptians, the Phoenicians, the Ptolemaists, the Romans, the Greeks, the Byzantine, the Arabs, and then by the Europeans in search of the spices route. Its apogee came with the opening of Suez Canal.
The port evolved out of Ethiopia’s search for a maritime outlet to its railway line, and Djibouti’s coastline provided both easy access and sheltered anchorage. Work on the railway began in 1897, as did the initial construction of the port. Once the line was completed, in 1917, the port grew rapidly.
Between 1960 and 1970, port activity was developed as part of an international maritime exchange network. The Red Sea had become one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world and Djibouti found itself acting as its service station. Bunkering traffic quadrupled in the ten years from 1954, reaching a peak of 1.8 million tons in 1965.
Djibouti’s strategic location enabled the port authorities to successfully rise to the challenge of turning the port into a regional hub for the Red Sea and Indian Ocean, and in a wider context the three continents of Europe, Africa and Asia. Containerization was the defining concept behind this new period of development and Djibouti’s first modern container terminal began operations in February 1985.
Since June 2000, the Port of Djibouti has been operated by DP World on a 20-year concession but since july 2011 the Port of Djibouti has undergone organizational changes and the concession of the ingot to DPW has been terminated.