Ethiopian Shipping and Logistics' Procedures on Booking, Shipping and Clearing

As the bulk of import cargo to Ethiopia is done through Ethiopian Shipping and Logistics (ESL) - formerly Ethiopian Shipping Lines Share Company, it is imperative to know the procedures involved. These are the procedures that cover the ocean shipping part. You may also visit ESL's website:

1. Have clear idea on how to load goods, containers or break bulk

1.1. Containers

If the shipment is to be made in containers, make sure to decide which type of container to use

  • Standard 20 ft or 40 ft
  • Special 20 ft Flat Rack or 40ft Flat Rack
  • Special 20 ft Open Top or 40ft Open Top
  • Total number of units of containers required

The amount of freight cost depends on the number of units and the type of containers. For more you may visit the containerization page.

1.2. Break bulk

Break bulk cargo is a non containerised cargo. It's either too little to be stuffed in a container or too long or too inconvenient.  

You need to know this prior to shipping or booking a space for shipment

  • Unit weight of individual packages and total weights of the shipment in metric tons
  • Dimension of packages: Length, Height and Width of packages and the overall total measurement/volume in cubic meter of total shipment. (The amount of sea freight depends on weight or measurement (volume) of cargo whichever is the highest; that is, if the cargo's wieght is 100mt and if the volume is 300 cbm, then fright is calculated based on 300 cbm.)


1.3 Vehicles

For Vehicles, specify the dimensions height, width; length and unit weight for vehicles like Trucks, Dozers, Passenger Cars, Buses, Vans. (The amount of sea freight cost depends on the measurement (volume) of cargo)

1.4 Chemicals

  • Most importantly know the nature of your cargo especially if the cargo is hazardous or dangerous ( ex. whether it's inflammable or explosive, etc. - make sure to obtain U.N. No. or IMCO Class of Cargo from your supplier).
  • Since extra care  is needed to ship such cargo,  sea freight cost involves sur-charge depending on the nature/ IMCO calls of the cargo.


2. Give clear details of shipment 

  • Port of Loading: Specify the port cargo is expected to be loaded.
  • Port of Discharge: Specify the Port of Destination.
  • Suppliers' Address: Specify the Suppliers' full address including, telephone, e-mail and contact person.
  • Receivers' Address in Ethiopia: Specify the telephone no., postal code, e-mail and location.

3. Important points to note while negotiating terms of shipment with suppliers

  • Specify that ESL is nominated sea carrier and clearly agree FOB Port of Loading.
  • Specify how goods are to be shipped in break bulk or containers.
  • Specify the type and total number of units of containers needed.
  • Specify that local FOB charges including OTHC are to be covered by shippers.
  • Customers must ask suppliers to declare clearly at time of loading cargo the following
    • Full address of consignees (cargo receivers) in Ethiopia is stated in the Bills of lading
    • Put proper shipment, mark and label on cargo indicating Consignees/Receivers 
  • Use adequate seaworthy packing method and material to ensure safe arrival of cargo at port of discharge.


 4. Cargo, Transit time

  • To ensure the timely arrival of goods, it is important to know the lead-time needed for arranging shipment from Port of Origin to Destination.
  • The lead-time depends on the location of port of loading. Some ports are on-line served and are sailed to frequently and delivery time is relatively fast and short.
  • Some ports are off line and availability of sailing is limited and also served on indirect basis by re-routing cargo through different connecting points. In such cases, even if there was geographic proximity, the delivery time could be longer and late.

For best results please note the followings:

  •  When making foreign purchases or placing orders, take note of the transit time, vessel availability, etc.
  •  See options of ordering or re-routing your orders from ports having less transit time; you can consult with ESL's staff if you need further info.
  • In time of urgent shipment you are kindly advised to consult ESL Commercial Department


5. In case you encounter difficulties with shipments 

ESL maintains contact and network in all its service areas to ensure timely arrangement of Shipments; you may visit this page to see ESL's agents' addresses.
In situations where your suppliers encounter difficulty and bring notice to your attention on issues like:

  • Your cargo is ready but difficulty in getting ESL's local service agents to arrange shipment, Your suppliers have no idea how to reach ESL
  • Availability of container and ship schedule etc.

If you encounter any other difficulty affecting timely loading of your cargo, you are strongly advised to contact ESL on first instance of receiving such notice to enable us take action in time.


6. Some issues about port of discharge

6.1 Arrival notification

  • Cargo arrival notifications are issued based on the consignees addresses provided on the Bills of Lading. In order to enable us to serve you with quick and timely cargo arrival notification, please make sure that your correct and full address is clearly documented in the B/L. For best results, it is advisable for customers to give their full style address: e-mail, fax, P,O, Box to the ESL Head Office while booking their cargo.

6.2 Port regulations

Important points a consignee needs to know are:

  • All goods for Ethiopia are accepted on transit basis and the amount of storage period allowed is limited. If consignees fail to clear their cargo timely, the port may confiscate the uncleared goods. For the regulations concerning storage time, storage fee, maximum period allowed, etc at the Port of Djibouti, please visit their website.
  • Specially hazardous cargo classified as DANGEROUS is required to be moved out of the port without delay upon arrival. Any delay beyond allowed time shall entail penalty.
  • Direct Delivery Cargoes are goods that have to be discharged from ship on to trucks for direct transport to final destinations. Consignees need to make pre-hand preparation to clear their direct delivery cargo upon ship arrival to avoid extra cost of ship delay demurrage charges.

Consignees are strongly advised to make all necessary process to clear their goods timely as per the Port regulations.