The Ethiopian nation once had a formidable Navy albeit a small one. In 1955, The United Nations join Ethiopia and Eritrea to form one singular country paving the way for the commissioning of the country’s armed forces. In 1958 the Imperial Ethiopian navy was formed and was made an autonomous branch of the Ethiopian National Defense Force.
The Ethiopian Navy, known as the Imperial Ethiopian Navy until 1974, It was disbanded in 1996 after the independence of Eritrea in 1991 left Ethiopia landlocked.
By 1956, A naval college was commissioned in Asmara where Ethiopian naval officers undertook a 52-month program of study, In 1957, a Naval Non-Commissioned Officer School was established at Massawa as well.
In 1958, the navy became a fully independent service, under the overall command of the Chief of Staff of the Imperial National Defense Force. The navy’s deputy commander had his naval headquarters in Addis Ababa. Operating as a coast guard patroling the territorial waters off the Red Sea.
The then Emperor, Emperor Haile Selassie I appointed Royal Norwegian Navy officers to help in organizing Ethiopia’s new navy, and they oversaw much of the training. Some Imperial Ethiopian Navy officers received naval education at the Italian Naval Academy or the United States Naval Academy.
At its height, the Imperial Ethiopian Navy had a force of 3,500 personnel. All enlisted men served seven-year enlistments as volunteers with little or no combat experience.The navy operated a mix of patrol boats and torpedo boats transferred from the United States Navy and the navies of European countries.
PC12 was sunk by Ethiopian Air Force when her crew tried to defect.
United States Navy transferred the seaplane tender USS Orca (AVP-49) to Ethiopia in 1962 which was christian-ed Ethiopia (A-01) and used as a training ship, she was the Ethiopian Navy’s largest vessel at that time while serving for 31 years.
The Imperial Ethiopian Navy also purchased six units of UH-1 Iroquois which was used to form the naval aviation force which operated at Asmara base.
USS ORCA AVP 49
The Imperial Ethiopian Navy established four bases which are Massawa, Asmara, Assab and Dahlak.
with its primary base—the Haile Selassie I Naval Base at Massawa. By the early 1960s workshops and other facilities were under construction at Massawa to give it complete naval base capabilities.
Massawa;Naval Headquarter and Enlisted training facility.
Asmara:Naval air station and Naval Academy.
Assab:Naval station, Enlisted training Facility and repair dock.
Dahlak Islands:Communication and Signals station and Repair dock.
By 1991, Ethiopian Navy had in its inventory about two frigates, eight missile craft, six torpedo craft, six patrol boats, two amphibious craft, and two support/training craft.
Decline of the Ethiopian Navy.
The Ethiopian Navy performed poorly in the Ogaden War of 1978 a war between Ethiopia and Somalia, and Ethiopian Government began to divert funds from the navy while increasing more resources to the Army and Air Force causing the decline of the Ethiopian Navy in terms of capabilities.
The Ethiopian Navy lost both its main port and its highway connection to the Ethiopian interior when the EPLF captured Massawa in March 1990, forcing the navy’s headquarters to move inland to Addis Ababa. The Eritrean rebellion spread to the Dahlak Islands, where the EPLF damaged the Petya II-class frigate F-1616 beyond repair. EPLF successes left Ethiopian Navy bases increasingly isolated as 1990 wore on. By the spring of 1991, the navy’s ships had begun to use ports in Djibouti, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen because of the danger of returning to their home bases. In late May 1991, the EPLF captured Asmara and surrounded Assab, where fire from its ground forces sank seven Ethiopian Navy ships in port. On 25 May 1991, the 14 Ethiopian Navy ships capable of putting to sea fled Assab, ten of them steaming to Yemen and the others to Saudi Arabia, leaving behind seven ships and a variety of small craft. Assab fell to the EPLF soon after.
The End Of The Ethiopian Navy.
The Ethiopian Civil War and Eritrean War of Independence both ended in 1991 soon after the fall of Assab, and Eritrea became independent, leaving Ethiopia landlocked. The Ethiopian Navy remained in existence, left in the curious and unusual position of having no home ports. Nonetheless, directed by its headquarters in Addis Ababa, it continued occasional patrols in the Red Sea from ports in Yemen. In 1993, Yemen finally expelled the Ethiopian ships; by then some had deteriorated too much to be seaworthy, and the Ethiopians left them behind in Yemen. Ethiopia had become a hulk after arriving in Yemen in 1991 and was sold for scrap in 1993; other Ethiopian ships were also scrapped or scuttled.
Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia attending Ethiopian Navy day annual celebration at Massawa in 1970 G.C
Those ships which could get underway from Yemen in 1993 moved to Djibouti. For a time it was thought that the Ethiopian Navy might survive, based at Assab in Eritrea or at Djibouti, and Ethiopia even requested that Eritrea lease it pier space at Assab from which to operate the surviving Ethiopian Navy. Eritrea refused the request. Proposals also were made for Eritrea and Ethiopia to divide the ships, with ships manned by both countries operating from Eritrean ports as a kind of successor to the Ethiopian Navy, but Eritrea soon expressed a desire to organize an entirely separate Eritrean Navy.
By 1996, Djibouti had tired of having a foreign navy in its ports. The Ethiopian Navy had fallen behind in paying its harbor dues, and under this pretext Djibouti seized all of the remaining ships on 16 September 1996 and put them up for auction to pay the back dues. Eritrea expressed interest in 16 of them, but finally limited itself to purchasing only four of them – an Osa-II class missile boat and three Swiftships Shipbuilders patrol craft – in order to avoid exacerbating an international crisis with Yemen. The rest of the ships were scrapped.
Later in 1996, the Ethiopian Navy’s headquarters in Addis Ababa disbanded, and the Ethiopian Navy ceased to exist. Its only remnant is the patrol boat GB-21; moved inland to Lake Tana and manned by Ethiopian Army personnel, she survived as of 2009 as Ethiopia’s only military watercraft.