AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: Yemen’s government has strongly denied allowing uninspected ships into the Houthi-occupied western Hodeidah port or encouraging traders to use the same port, stating that the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism for Yemen was still operational.
“The government denies any change in the inspection procedure after the Houthis told the private sector that all restrictions on ships bound for Hodeidah have been lifted,” a Yemeni government official, who requested anonymity, told Arab News on Thursday, adding that UNVIM’s security processes would only be terminated by another UN Security Council.
On Wednesday, the government’s Ministry of Transportation and Ministry of Commerce and Industry issued a strongly worded joint statement denying any changes to the government’s agreement with the UN regarding the inspection of ships bound for Hodeidah and threatening legal action and other punitive measures against violators.
The government “emphasizes that it will take deterrent actions against ships that violate government decisions and processes, as well as merchants and shipping brokers that do so,” the statement said.
UNVIM is situated in Djibouti and was created in 2016 at the request of the Yemeni government to check fuel and commercial or humanitarian ships bound for the Houthi-occupied ports to ensure they are not smuggling weapons to the Yemeni militia and are in compliance with the UN embargo on arms to Yemen.
In protest over the government’s decision to hike the US dollar custom exchange rate on non-essential commodities by 50 percent, the Houthis have lately prevented local traders from importing products via government-controlled regions and asked them to utilize the Hodeidah port.
Hundreds of vehicles and tankers transporting commodities, petrol and steel have been stalled due to the Houthi restriction at entrance points to their lands.
Refuting the government’s statement, Yemeni traders in Aden said that a number of commercial ships rerouted from the port of Aden to Hodeidah, with some entering the port without inspection.
Abu Bakr Baobaid, the chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Aden, said that ships carrying steel, cement and cooking oil had moored at Hodeidah port and Al-Saleef port in Hodeidah city and that some commodities that were scheduled to arrive at Aden port were redirected to Hodeidah.
The chairman stressed that the Yemeni government did not like to accept that the Houthis had not only persuaded foreign shipping corporations to use ports under their control but also redirected certain ships from Aden to Hodeidah.
“The government will not confess that the rug is being pulled out from under it,” Baobaid told Arab News.