Yemen - port situation
Updated 27 November 2023
Yemen’s overall security situation is fragile due to the country’s civil war. Special entry conditions still apply vessels calling at Yemeni ports and it is advisable to regularly confirm a port’s status and condition with local sources of information. Furthermore, is recommended that all vessels exercise increased caution when operating in the Southern Red Sea and Gulf of Aden region.
Geopolitical tensions in the Southern Red Sea have increased since the commencement of the Israel-Gaza conflict and this is particularly relevant for assets with links to Israel transiting the region. The recent attack on a commercial vessel in the Red Sea demonstrated the Yemeni Houthis’ capability to disrupt merchant shipping, however, the situation in the Yemeni ports remains unchanged despite current developments.
According to information received from our correspondent Gulf Agency Co. (Yemen) Ltd. (GAC), the port situation in Yemen as of 27 November 2023 is reported to be as follows:
- Working: Aden, Rudhum Oil Terminal, Mukalla, Ash Shihr Oil Terminal, Nishtun, Mokha, Saleef, Hodeidah, and Ras Isa Petroleum Products Reception Facility
- Closed: Ras Isa Marine Terminal (FSO Safer) and Balhaf LNG Terminal
It is also worth noting that the ongoing conflict in Yemen has triggered special entry conditions for those port calls and coastal operations that are still taking place, see below for details. Vessels attempting to enter Yemeni ports may therefore experience postponements and delays due to the enforcement of these conditions. Furthermore, the Houthis continue to warn oil tankers to not use Yemen’s ports in an attempt to stop the Yemeni government from obtaining revenue from the country’s oil exports. This means that attacks on the Rudhum and Ash Shihr Oil Terminals cannot be ruled out.
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.
Vessels calling at ports that are under the control of the Government of Yemen 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.
Given the current situation in Yemen, the overall security situation in the country is fragile. While the conflict has primarily been land based, maritime security in certain coastal areas off Yemen and in the Southern Red Sea has been affected by the conflict and direct or collateral damage to merchant vessels operating in the region cannot be ruled out. Ship operators are therefore advised to:
- Warn their vessels’ crews of the volatility of the situation and carry out an assessment of the risks involved prior to entering Yemeni waters.
- 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 operational and security information available at any given time. Information may also be obtained via GAC’s website under “Hot Port News”.
- Take all necessary precautions to ensure compliance with the authorities’ current port control measures and the safety of the vessel and its crew, including the above vessel port clearance procedures.
- Clarify the status of a port’s services well before arrival as availability of cranes, fuel, manpower, etc. may be reduced.
We would also 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 this 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. Reference is also made to the Interim Industry Transit Advice, Southern Red Sea, and Gulf of Aden - November 2023.
We thank Gard’s correspondent Gulf Agency Co. (Yemen) Ltd. for their assistance in the preparation of this update.
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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:
- implement measures as per the ship’s security plan equivalent to security level 2 while in port in Yemen;
- ensure that each access point to the ship is guarded and that the guards have total visibility of the exterior (both landside and waterside) of the vessel while it is in port in Yemen;
- attempt to execute a declaration of security while in port in Yemen;
- log all security actions in the ship’s security records; and
- report the actions taken to the relevant Coast Guard captain of the port prior to arrival in US waters.
Any affected vessel that does not meet the stipulated conditions may be denied entry into the US.