Updated 10 June 2021
While there have been no recent changes to the status of Yemeni ports, aid organizations warn that COVID-19 has made what was already the world’s worst humanitarian and development crisis in Yemen even more deadly.
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Almost two and a half years have now passed since the Houthis and the Government of Yemen met in Sweden for UN sponsored talks aimed at ending a brutal conflict that has generated the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. However, the progress to implement the resulting Stockholm Agreement has been slow. The same goes for the Riyadh Agreement signed in November 2019 by the government and the Southern Transitional Council in an effort to settle the armed conflict between the two sides.
The pandemic is elevating concerns around a worsening food crisis in Yemen. The first case of COVID-19 was reported in Yemen in April 2020 and the number of confirmed cases has since been growing. According to Doctors without Borders, Yemen’s ruined health system is now struggling to respond to a deadly second wave of COVID-19. In addition, cholera and other contagious diseases, such as diphtheria, are spreading in the country. “Supplies and medical care are scarce as is the access to drinking water and sanitation”, warns the Red Cross.
At the time of writing, there are no changes to the status of Yemeni ports. However, in addition to the existing port entry conditions triggered by the ongoing conflict, Yemeni port authorities are have implemented strict quarantine and control measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Maritime security in the Southern Red Sea is also affected by the conflict in Yemen and direct or collateral damage to merchant vessels cannot be ruled out. Ship operators and their masters are therefore advised to continuously evaluate the situation and carry out an assessment of the risks involved prior to entering Yemeni waters. All necessary precautions should be taken to ensure compliance with the authorities’ current port control measures and the safety of the vessel and its crew.
Furthermore, an article worth reading is the UN Development Program’s (UNDP) “The faces of Yemen’s sea ports” of 8 June 2021. The UNDP takes an insider look through the eyes of those working at Yemen’s ports and living nearby to understand how they work, and what they hope to achieve together.
According to information received from our correspondent Gulf Agency Co. (Yemen) Ltd. (GAC), the port situation in Yemen as at 10 June 2021 is as follows:
It is worth noting that the capacity of working ports may be limited as there may be a lack of fuel supplies and other basic services. The correspondent also advice of the potential for cargo shortage/damage claims in Yemeni ports. Vessels attempting to enter Yemeni ports may also experience postponements and delays due the special entry conditions in force.
Our correspondent further reports of an increase in dengue and chikungunya cases in the country and advises ship’s crew to implement measures to prevent mosquito bites while visiting Yemeni ports. An overview of recommended precautions for ships trading within mosquito zones can be found in our alert Alarming spike in dengue cases of 7 October 2019.
Port entry conditions triggered by COVID-19
At the time of writing our correspondent GAC reports that ships will be granted permission to enter a Yemeni port on a case-by-case basis, pending inspections by the port health authorities. However, as the COVID-19 situation may change quickly and it can be difficult to maintain a full overview of areas affected by the outbreak as well as port and travel restrictions being enforced at any given time, we strongly recommend that ship operators and masters, well in advance of arriving at any port, seek guidance from local port authorities and ships’ agents on restrictions and other preventive measures currently in effect. In addition, the International Group of P&I Clubs has launched an online COVID-19 tracker to assist shipowners, charterers, operators, and other parties in the maritime sector to track country and port specific advice around the world.
Port entry conditions triggered by the ongoing conflict
Shipping companies or owners shipping commercial goods or services, including bilateral assistance not channelled through a UN agency or a recognised international humanitarian organisation, to ports not under the direct control of the Government of Yemen must obtain prior clearance from the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism for Yemen (UNVIM). Complete clearance requests should be submitted no later than five days prior to the vessel’s arrival at the outer limits of these ports and preferably before the departure of the vessel from its port of loading, depending on the availability of the vessel’s documents. Any clearance request received after this period will incur delays in the clearance process. For more details, including the UNVIM standard operating procedures, list of requested documents, and the clearance request form, please refer to the UNVIM website: https://www.vimye.org. At the time of writing, the (working) ports not under the direct control of the Government of Yemen are Hodeidah and Saleef.
Vessels calling at ports that are under the control of the Government of Yemen, that is, all working ports other than Hodeidah and Saleef, must continue to apply for entry permissions through the Yemeni Ministry of Transportation using the form: Entry permission for commercial and relief ships to Yemeni ports. The form should be completed and sent by email to the Operations Unit of the Supreme Relief Committee at: email@example.com no less than a week before the vessel’s entry/arrival.
Entry to Yemeni territorial waters will be granted only following an inspection by the naval forces of Saudi Arabian-led coalition. Once a vessel reaches the outskirts of Bab-el-Mandeb, some 3nm from Yemen’s territorial waters, a notice of arrival must be called in by the Master on VHF channel 16. The naval forces of the Saudi Arabian-led coalition will then advice where the vessel should anchor pending completion of the inspection and approval of the port entry. Once the vessel is permitted to enter port, the Master must register the vessel’s arrival with the port authorities (on VHF Channel 14 or 16) and will then be assigned an anchoring position until the berthing time is confirmed by the Harbour Master.
Members and clients calling at Yemeni ports are advised to take note of the above vessel port clearance procedures and clarify the security situation and the status of a port’s services well before arrival as availability of cranes, fuel, manpower, etc. may be limited.
The COVID-19 and security situation is subject to rapid change and Members and clients are advised to warn their vessels’ crews of the volatility of the situation and to carry out an assessment of the risks involved prior to entering Yemeni waters. It is important to make frequent checks with local sources of information, e.g. vessel’s agent, Gard’s correspondent, etc., to obtain the most up to date and reliable COVID-19 and security information available at any given time. Information may also be obtained via GAC’s website under “Hot Port News”.
The conflict in Yemen has also introduced additional maritime security threats, other than piracy, to the Southern Red Sea and Bab al-Mandeb. These include collateral damage due to the conflict between local groups and a potentially deliberate targeting of vessels. We would therefore like to emphasise the importance of closely following the guidance provided by the BMP5 - Best Management Practises To Deter Piracy And Enhance Maritime Security In The red Sea, Gulf Of Aden, Indian Ocean And Arabian Sea when operating in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden region. Vessels should register with the Maritime Security Center Horn of Africa (MSCHOA) and report to the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), to ensure that the military is aware of their presence in the region, and use the Maritime Security Transit Corridor (MSTC), which is a military established corridor upon which naval forces focus their presence and surveillance efforts.
We would like to thank Gard’s correspondent Gulf Agency Co. (Yemen) Ltd. for their assistance in the preparation of this update.
Other Gard material
The US International Port Security Program
In accordance with its latest Port Security Advisory, the US Coast Guard (USCG) has determined that, with exception of Balhaf LNG Terminal, ports in Yemen are not maintaining effective anti-terrorism measures. The USCG has separate more stringent, security protocols in place for ships arriving to the US from Balhaf. Ships planning to arrive to the US from Balhaf should contact the relevant USCG Captain of the Port well in advance. However, at the time of writing, Balhaf Terminal is reported to be closed.
Under the US Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA), the USCG is required to assess the effectiveness of antiterrorism measures implemented in foreign ports from which US documented vessels and foreign vessels depart on a voyage to the US and other foreign ports believed to pose a security risk to international maritime commerce. As ports with ineffective antiterrorism measures are identified, this information is published in the Federal Register and the USCG will impose conditions of entry on vessels arriving in the US that visited such ports as one of their last five ports of call. Under the conditions of entry, affected vessels must:
Any affected vessel that does not meet the stipulated conditions may be denied entry into the US.
The complete list of ports considered to have ineffective antiterrorism measures along with the associated conditions of entry are included in the policy notices available on the US Coast Guard website: International Port Security Programs.