London: Personnel from Saudi-led coalition warships are searching at least five cargo ships for weapons off Yemen, which could lead to food shortages.
Navigation in Yemeni waters was banned on Sunday by Yemen’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which has delegated coalition naval forces to inspect and approve vessels in the area. Merchant ships are meant to have free passage once they are inspected, reports say.
At least five fully laden bulk carriers are waiting at anchor outside the Yemeni port of al-Saleef, according to AIS data.
The anchored vessels are carrying food imports for the country, which organisations say could exacerbate food shortages in Yemen.
“Even before the current escalation in conflict, almost half of all people in Yemen were short of food,” UN humanitarian agency OCHA told Reuters. The country imports over 90% of its food supply.
One supramax bulker, the Lycavitos (58,800 dwt, built 2007), waited outside Yemeni waters for nearly a week before it was cleared on Tuesday by the Egyptian navy to sail to al-Saleef port, Reuters reports.
The vessel, which is operated by Greece’s Helikon Shipping Enterprises, was later approached while in Yemeni waters by another warship, asking for proof of clearance.
Helikon Shipping told the newswire it expects a further berthing delay of six to seven days at the port.
The company warned that shipowners may invoke their rights under the charterparty to refuse to call at al-Saleef if the security situation there deteriorates further.
During the past week, a small containership, the Andre Rickmers (2,226 teu, built 1998) was initially unable to discharge at Houthi militia-controlled Hodaida port for safety reasons.
Coalition naval forces then refused the Rickmers-owned vessel entry into Yemeni ports, forcing it to sail back to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.