Mar 29, 2011
* Security at Aden port facilities increased
* Shipping lanes vital for Yemen's imports and exports
By Jonathan Saul
LONDON, March 29 (Reuters) - Yemen's ports are operating normally with no disruptions to shipping despite growing unrest and terminals are secure against attacks, a port adviser told Reuters on Tuesday.
Yemeni protesters demanding an end to President Ali Abdullah Saleh's rule said they would insist he leave power soon, blaming him for violence that has raised U.S. fears of chaos that could benefit militants. [ID:nLDE72S111
Yemen, the Arab world's poorest country, relies heavily on its sea lanes for trade.
"Shipping in all Yemeni ports is operating normally and has not been affected by the protests in Yemen," Roy Facey, port development adviser to the Port of Aden, said in an interview.
"This includes container shipping at Hodeidah and Aden, oil tanker operations, primarily at Aden, general and bulk cargoes at Aden, Hodeidah and Salif, and the growing cargo dhow trade at Aden and dhow operations in Mokha and Mukalla."
Saleh has said Yemen could slide into armed conflict and fragment along regional and tribal lines if he leaves office immediately. Its trade minister said people had begun hoarding basic foodstuffs over fears of an escalation.
"Imports and exports are essential to the economic life of Yemen and, as the ports are separated from the towns by security fences, they are very little affected by protests in the cities," Facey said.
"The scale of protests in the main ports of Aden and Hodeidah has not been sufficient to result in labour not being available to work the cargoes."
Yemen -- the world's 32nd biggest oil exporter and 16th biggest seller of liquefied natural gas (LNG) -- lies at the mouth of a vital shipping route. Oil export terminals in Yemen include Balhaf for LNG and Ash Shihr for oil.
"Security at Ash Shihr and Balhaf is excellent, with very tight procedures in place and strong defences against attack," Facey said.
More than 3 million barrels of oil bound for Europe and the United States are shipped daily through the narrow Bab al-Mandab strait off Yemen's coast.
Facey said a number of companies and public organisations had been reviewing security at port facilities around Aden.
"Several of them have thought it wise to raise their perimeter walls, install razor wire for additional protection from potential problems, increase the number of watchmen and or post armed guards inside the entrance gates," he said.
"The Aden Container Terminals and the terminal at Ma'alla are well secured and protected by staff from the Yemen Coastguard."
He said the coastguard also provided security at Aden Oil Harbour, which is the main export terminal for refined products.
"There is some tension in Aden as people wait and monitor developments in the country, but in general life continues as normal," he said.
Last year the U.S. government warned ships sailing off Yemen's coast of a risk of al Qaeda attacks similar to a suicide bombing of the U.S. warship Cole in 2000 that killed 17 U.S. sailors in Aden's port. Two years later, al Qaeda hit a French tanker in the Gulf of Aden, south of Bab al-Mandab.