Transportation

Houthis detain 19 oil vessels in al-Hodeidah port

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden

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A view of Yemen's opposition-held Red Sea port of al-Hodeidah on November 7th, 2017. The Houthis have been holding 19 oil vessels in the port's anchoring area for 26 days. [Abdo Hyder/AFP]

Yemeni and Arab Coalition officials have condemned the Houthis' (Ansarallah) detention of 19 oil vessels in the port of al-Hodeidah, saying the move would exacerbate the suffering of Yemenis.

The Iran-backed Houthis are holding 19 oil vessels and tens of thousands of barrels of oil, the coalition’s Yemen Comprehensive Humanitarian Operations (YCHO) Support Centre said in a statement Saturday (April 21st).

The vessels have been detained in the Houthi-controlled anchoring area of the port of al-Hodeidah for over 26 days, it said, "even though there are currently no other vessels inside the port".

Saudi ambassador to Yemen and executive director of the YCHO, Mohammed al-Jaber, condemned the Houthis’ move.

"The Houthi militias are extorting traders to allow their cargo in," he said in an interview with al-Hadath TV station.

"We have been in touch with the UN about what the Houthis are doing at al-Hodeidah port," he added.

Al-Hodeidah has been under blockade from the coalition, but restrictions have been eased this year to allow the entry of humanitarian relief, oil derivatives and basic foods.

Safeguarding international navigation

The Higher Committee for Relief also strongly condemned the Houthis’ detention of the oil vessels.

The militias "are taking advantage of their control over al-Hodeidah to detain vessels loaded with relief and humanitarian assistance and to deny humanitarian access", committee chairman and Yemen's Minister of Local Administration Abdul Raqeeb Fateh told local media.

"The militias have previously detained more than 65 relief vessels, and have used the port for military purposes by attacking relief and commercial vessels and threatening international navigation in the Red Sea," he said.

In an interview with Al-Mashareq, Fateh urged the UN to pressure the Houthis and put the port under its administration to speed up humanitarian relief efforts and ensure the militia does not use the port for military purposes in violation of international laws and customs.

"The administration of ports must be in the hands of the legitimate government to safeguard international navigation, especially after the Houthis tried to target commercial vessels," he said.

"The international community must play its role in this regard, as keeping al-Hodeidah port under Houthi control threatens 25% of international trade," he added.

The detention of vessels loaded with oil derivatives will impact the whole economy, including the agricultural and industrial sectors, said economic expert Abdul Jalil Hassan.

"The oil derivatives market affects all sectors and leads to price hikes in all products due to higher transport costs," he told Al-Mashareq.

"The transport costs of products from ports to provinces and vice versa will go up," he said, thus raising prices on all commodities and basic food items and increasing the suffering of the Yemeni people in general.

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