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A year after liberation, business up at Mukalla seaport

Port needs urgent funds to improve its infrastructure

  • Officials say that Mukalla seaport has never seen such a huge movement of ships before.Image Credit: Ahmad Batarfi
  • Local authorities have approved cuts in docking services and taxes to lure traders and freight companies to usImage Credit: Ahmad Batarfi
Gulf News

Al Mukalla: A large number of containers at the container terminals of Mukalla seaport indicate that this peaceful port city, the capital of Yemen’s south-eastern province of Hadramout, is experiencing an unprecedented boom in trade and businesses.

Everyday, long and steady lines of trucks enter or leave the seaport transporting loaded containers or brining back empty ones to the port. In the living memory of many people here, the seaport has never seen such a boom in business activity.

Saeed Mohfoudh Al Rayidi, who has been working here since establishment of Mukalla seaport in late 1985, is responsible for stevedoring services. He says that the seaport has never seen such a huge traffic of ships and boats before. “The movement of containers and ships at the port has increased since the [Saudi-led] coalition forces entered Mukalla,” Al Rayidi told Gulf News.

Al Qaida in Arabian Peninsula held Mukalla, Yemen’s fifth largest city, for almost a year before thousands of Yemeni troops, trained and armed by the UAE, pushed them out of the city on April 24, 2016. During their occupation of the city the militants racked up millions of dollars from the seaport, but many freight companies opted to move their operations to the neighbouring seaports.

A year after liberation of Mukalla, officials and workers told Gulf News that the seaport is working at full capacity. They said that there is an urgent need for maintenance and upgradation of the seaport’s infrastructure to handle the growing traffic and receive large cargo ships.

Al Rayidi said that the number of workers at the seaport has gone up to 665 this year, another testament to the booming business environment at the port. “In the past, we used to spend a month doing nothing because there was no business. Now, each worker earns thousands of riyals daily.” Al Rayidi said.

Officials in Mukalla say that the collapse of the ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime, control of Hodeida seaport by Al Houthis and improvement of security in the city of Mukalla are the main reasons behind the upturn in marine traffic at the port.

Foud Al Roubaki, the deputy chairman of Arabian Sea Corporation that runs the seaport, told Gulf News that the seaport’s three docks are fully occupied and the huge traffic at the seaport has generated a lot of jobs and revenues. "A large number of long trucks, vans and people are working at the seaport. For the first time, we received a ship carrying 20,000 tonnes of steel,”

Officials say to compete with other seaports on the Red Sea and to lure the freight companies and encourage local traders to brining in their goods through Mukalla seaport, local authorities here approved cut in docking fees and taxes. “This seaport is close to northern parts of Yemen and Shabwa,” Al Roubaki said, adding that it was largely neglected in the past by asking local businessmen to import goods through Hodeida seaport on the Red Sea. “In the past, the activities at the port were limited to wooden ships that carry general goods and ships carrying liquid cement. Now, fuel, foodstuff, steel, building materials and others items are being imported through Mukalla,” Al Roubaki said.

According to official figures, the number of commercial ships that docked at the seaport has soared from 159 in 2015 to 251 in 2016. Officials believe that by the end of this year, the number of ships could exceed 300.

Al Roubaki said that the seaport is in need of urgent funds to expand terminals and docks and deepening the piers as to allow the seaport to handle the growing demand of handling the big ships. For example, many big ships had to go to other seaports to unload part of their cargo and return to Mukalla as the city’s seaport is not deep. “We have prepared a plan to expand Pier One from 177 metres to 300 metres. We are also in need of new machines.” Al Roubaki said.

The governor of Hadramout, Major General Ahmad Saeed Bin Bourek, told Gulf News that measures taken by the local authorities are paying off as revenues from the seaport are soaring due to big increase in movement of ships. "Mukalla seaport is an important port of Yemen. All provinces get their goods and vital commodities from Mukalla.” he said. The governor said that the revenues earned from the seaport are being used for improving electricity supply and other basic services in the liberated area.