Aden port secured, but word has still to spread

Goods are flowing in, but some companies are still reluctant to resume business.

An armoured vehicle stationed at Aden's port as part of security measures put in place by coalition forces after Yemen's second city was liberated from Houthi rebels in mid July. Mohammed Al Qalisi / The National
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ADEN // Aden's port has been reopened for business after months of fierce fighting to repel an attempted rebel takeover of the city, but the challenge now is to convince all traders and shipping firms that it is safe, local businessmen say.
The Houthi rebels took over the port after attacking Aden in late March, cutting off the main entry point for goods into country's south and creating severe shortages of essential supplies.
"During the war we could not import any foodstuffs through Aden port and our goods were held up in Djibouti," said Fahd Bahomaish, 66, a local foodstuffs trader.
After the rebels were pushed out of the city in mid-July, Aden's port facilities have been secured by troops from the UAE, which is a key member of the Saudi-led coalition helping loyalist forces to restore the exiled government of President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi.
Tanks and armoured vehicles have been stationed at the port to provide security for ships at anchor, according to Brigadier Abdullah Al Ameri, who oversees the port's operations.
Mr Bahomaish said that even though his delayed shipments had now arrived, there were concerns about doing business through Aden.
"We could import fresh stock, but some companies refuse to export or import through Aden and say it is not safe yet. The main reason is that there are no insurance companies willing to compensate traders if they lose their goods," he said.
He believes these companies and traders would resume doing business in the coming months as there has not been a single case so far of a trader losing goods coming through Aden.
Abdulkareem Al Salami, 53, a dealer in home furnishings, said his suppliers were refusing to send goods to him through Aden.
"There is a huge demand in the local market for home furnishings, but I have not been able import any goods yet," he said.
"I know that the port is safe, and most of the traders and companies have resumed imports through the port, but I could not convince the company that exports goods to me, as they say that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is threatening to take over Aden's port," Mr Al Salami said.
The extremist group has strongholds in southern Yemen and recently there were reports they had infiltrated an Aden suburb, but the city remains firmly under the control of pro-Hadi forces.
Mr Al Salami said this was the main reason that some companies refused to let their ships dock in Aden, even though many others had resumed normal operations in the city.
He said he had heard that the port management and Emirati officials at the port were planning to assure the World Trade Organisation that Aden and Yemeni territorial waters were now safe for trading.
"Restoring the port's activity was one of the main tasks of the Emirates forces in Aden," said Aref Al Shobi, a port official.
"Imports to Aden stopped for four months during the war in the city, but after the Emrates forces took over the port, thousands of tonnes have reached Aden," he said.
Mr Al Shobi said the port had received goods from countries as diverse as China, Malaysia and Egypt and these were then sent on to all of Yemen's provinces through traders.
And despite the turmoil of the past months, Mr Al Shobi said, not a single port employee had lost their job.