Maritime Trade in Yemen, Bab El Mandeb under Growing Pressure

Maritime trade is under growing impact of the actions of the Houthi rebels in Yemen and the Saudi coalition response as ships entering Yemen face longer delays.

“Ships have been entering Yemeni ports but face significant delays in getting permission from the coalition, additionally a thorough search of the vessel will be made prior to entry. Shipping safety is also a concern alongside with airstrikes, which are likely to disrupt operations,” said Gerry Northwood OBE, COO of global security provider MAST.

Aden is still not under Houthi control and it is clear that the naval blockade of ports is also taking effect, with severe fuel shortages in Aden and parts of Sana’a. Food supplies are also running low as Yemen imports 90% of its foodstuffs, making it particularly vulnerable to naval siege tactics,” he added.

As informed, Yemeni Tribesmen, a collection of local militia groups based around tribal factions, have taken control of the Ash Shihr Oil Terminal and the associated oil fields to the north in a peaceful take over from Yemeni military control. The Tribesmen in Ash Shihr are thought to include former Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) members, MAST said.

The tensions in the region are further intensified as reports of potential Iranian maritime support to the Houthi rebels.

Namely, a convoy of Iranian cargo ships is parked in the north Arabian Sea, which, according to U.S. officials, is feared of carrying weapons destined for rebels.

The Saudis, Egyptians and Iranians have sent ships into the area. The Americans have dispatched the Nimitz Class aircraft carrier, USS Theodore Roosevelt, with a cruiser escort from the Mediterranean to the Gulf of Aden.

  “The Americans are the single most powerful naval force in the world today and this move demonstrates the level of concern that they have for the situation in Yemen and its potential to destabilise the entire region,” Northwood said.

Navigation in Yemen’s territorial waters has been banned and ships are not allowed into Yemen unless inspected and approval by the Saudi-led coalition forces.

In a statement signed by the Foreign Minister Riyadh Yassin, issued on April 11, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that “Yemen has banned entry into the territorial waters and has authorized coalition countries to implement the decision, adding that the ban has been imposed on the country’s maritime zones”.

The Maritime Zones referred to in a message from the Arab States coalition still have not been clarified, but BIMCO is advising all ships to remain outside of Yemeni territorial waters unless necessary for port operations or transit through to the Red Sea.

Image: NASA

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