Shipping line denies misnaming Mek’ele vessel

(Daniel Berhane)

The state-owned Shipping line disclaimed responsibility for the misnaming of its new vessel, which was named after Mek’ele, the capital of Tigrai state.

The controversial Mek'ele vessel
The controversial Mek’ele vessel

The vessel, which arrived last week, is the last of the nine vessels that Ethiopian Shipping & Logistics Services Enterprise (ESLSE) has ordered from China, at a total cost of 300 million dollars, in 2010, as part of its plan to scale up the amount of cargo carried by Ethiopian vessel from 20% to 50%.

The enterprise named the new vessels after the capital cities of the nine federal states. The firt eight were named Finfine, Assosa, Gambell, Harar, Jigjiga Bahir Dar and Hawassa.

The ninth vessel, which arrived last week and named after Mek’ele city, triggered criticisms on facebook and twitter as the Geez inscription on the vessel’s body reads መቀሌ rather than መቐለ.

Hundreds signed a petition, titled “Correct the Name on Mek’ele Vessel“, in the weekend. The petition letter argues that the vessel has the potential of giving permanence to an already ubiquitous misspelling of the city’s name. It also urges for the rectification of similar problem in the use of other Tigrai related names in the federal government.

The shipping enterprise is not responsible for the matter, according to its Chief Engineer and deputy CEO of shipping services Alemu Ambaye.Mek'ele University gate

In a phone interview with this blog today, Alemu suggested that the focus should have been on the fact that the vessel’s role in promoting the name of the city, adding that “we have seen [the criticisms on social media]”.

In an attempt to justify, Alemu noted that the inscription on Alula aba Nega international airport is same as on the vessel.

However, while the airport is located in Mek’ele city, it is owned and managed by the federal government, which, for some reasons, is still stuck on several erroneous names. Though, the assimilation policy has been officially abandoned twenty two years ago.

It appears Mek’ele University is the sole federal institution that employs the proper spelling.

Alemu claimed that the names inscribed on all vessels were obtained from “official sources”. Asked to clarify whether the Tigrai state government is the “official source”, he said it was the federal government. Later, he indicated the name was written after referring to “federal government documents”.

Yet, Alemu reiterated that the enterprise has no predilection on the matter and would correct the vessel’s name if requested by an official organ.


Daniel Berhane

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