The distressed people of Yemen hardly receive relief supplies because of the deplorable state of the ports. This is stated in a report written by the Port of Rotterdam on behalf of the United Nations (UNDP) and the National Service for Entrepreneurial Netherlands.
The war that has been raging in Yemen since 2015 has severely damaged ports, which has significantly reduced their capacity. While 90% of the goods enter the country through the ports. Moreover, capacity fell sharply due to a lack of maintenance of ports due to lack of specialist knowledge.
Employees of the Port of Rotterdam carried out damage and capacity analysis in the ports of Aden, Hodeidah, Salif, Ras Issa and Mukalla in 2019 and at the end of last year. In their report, they argue that the war and the problems in ports lead to enormous delays in the delivery of aid supplies and to rising prices for these goods. Because of stagnation, but also corruption, food, fuels and medicines are becoming increasingly scarce.
An estimated 50,000 Yemenis are starving. There is a shortage of food, but in addition, food has become prohibitive for many people. The UN fears that over 16 million people in Yemen will face hunger this year, that is more than half of the population.
“ Because of the lack of infrastructure in Yemen, ships must now be unloaded in Saudi Arabia or Djibouti where cargo is checked. Only after that the goods will be transported to Yemen. This means doubling the transport costs of each container of aid,” says Auke Lootsma, coordinator of the UNDP in Yemen. “In addition, shipping companies pay sky-high insurance premiums. Because of the war, premiums are sixteen times higher than in other ports.”
According to the report of the Port of Rotterdam Port Authority, more ships can unload their aid in a safe and faster manner if investments are made in the repair and maintenance of damaged ports. Spare parts and specialist knowledge are also needed.
But ports are controlled by different parties, including in dangerous areas. Restoring is therefore not a safe job, says correspondent Daisy Mohr. “Whoever starts it will want some kind of security guarantees. In this conflict, of course, that is not exactly easy.”
In addition, recovery is not the only stumbling block. “Some ports have been blocked for a long time under the leadership of Saudi Arabia. For example, fuel and also food do not enter the country. These ports are of course crucial to Yemen, where it has been war for years and airports are certainly not always operational.”
With the conclusions of the Rotterdam report, the UN is going to ask the authorities to reduce the costs of importing food and to make it easier to attract knowledge and skills. Funds are also being recruited through UN donor countries for specialist knowledge and spare parts.
Because it costs at least $50 million a port, says Lootsma. “Of course, it is a significant amount that needs to be put on the table. But these investments can lower the cost of food.” For example, because loading and unloading is quicker and ships have to wait shorter in ports.
In addition to funding, there is also the political aspect, with the warring parties and the countries that support them. “Political actors must commit themselves to this. It is absolutely feasible, but all noses have to go the same way,” Lootsma says hopefully.