Yemen Ports

10 Major Yemen Ports: A Deep Dive into Yemen Maritime Gateways

Yemen, a nation smoldering in the fire of several conflicts, is a testament to the fact that we crave control and power over existence as humans. Somehow, existence is minuscule in the absence of power and it stands true for embattled Yemen.

Stretching over 527,970 sq. km, Yemen’s expansive coastline of 2000 km and around 200 islands, share marchland with Saudi Arabia and Oman. Alongside, several African countries, including Djibouti, Somalia, and Eritrea, share a maritime border with Yemen, facilitating some of the world’s most busiest ports.

Yemen Ports’ geopolitical significance arises from its location at the crossroads of vital maritime routes connecting Asia, Africa, and Europe, particularly through the Bab al-Mandeb Strait. This strait, linking the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea, is one of the main arteries of global trade enabling 7% of trade and 30% of the world’s oil transportation. 

Frustrated with jammed ports

Pivotal Yemen Ports

Yemen’s numerous seaports, strategically positioned for international trade and shipping lines, add complexity to the conflict as warring factions vie for control over coastlines and crucial sea outlets, overlooking the Arabian Sea and Red Sea. Yemen’s six international seaports, including Aden and Hodeidah, hold ancient significance, impacting not only the local economy but also playing a pivotal role in the entire Arabian Peninsula’s history. These ports’ strategic importance is amplified by their geographical, economic, and historical relevance, making them contested assets in the ongoing conflict.

Further, the inability of Yemen’s political elites to establish a robust governance system has left the country vulnerable to exploitation.

Moreover, Yemen’s mountainous regions, predominantly inhabited by tribes, play a pivotal role in Yemeni politics. Historical events, such as the success or failure of revolutions, have been influenced by tribal allegiances.

 Yemen ports as of now 

As of January 2024, several Yemeni ports, including Aden, Mukalla, Saleef, and Hodeidah, are reported as operational, while others like Ras Isa Marine Terminal and Balhaf LNG Terminal are closed. Ongoing conflict triggers specific entry conditions for vessels calling at ports, not under direct Yemeni government control. Clearance from the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism for Yemen is mandatory for such ports, with a submission deadline of five days before arrival.

Entry permissions are processed through the Yemeni Ministry of Transportation for ports under Yemeni government control. Vessels entering Yemeni territorial waters face inspection by the Saudi Arabian-led coalition’s naval forces. A notice of arrival must be made 3 nautical miles from Yemen’s waters, followed by anchoring instructions. Vessels must register with port authorities on VHF channels, awaiting berthing confirmation from the Harbour Master. Houthi warnings against oil tanker use add an extra layer of complexity to Yemen’s maritime landscape, making vigilance and compliance with entry conditions crucial.

Major Ports of Yemen and Their Roles

1. Port of Aden: Modern Facilities and Strategic Location

The port of Aden, steeped in a history spanning over 3000 years, is one of the prime Yemen ports holding a unique position. Nestled in the Gulf of Aden, its historical prominence is underscored by its strategic location, facilitating trade between the Western and Eastern worlds. Aden served as a vital station for the spice trade and gained mention in Ezekiel’s Old Testament book. Despite facing challenges during the 2015 conflict, impacting its operations and the ensuing Battle of Aden, the port’s significance remains undeniable.

Since 2018, Aden has been seized by the Southern Transitional Council. Its vital role as one of Yemen’s primary oceanic ports in the Gulf of Aden positions it strategically. Aden port consists of an external port used for anchoring and an inland port providing maritime services. Its potential for further growth is evident, especially through cooperation with China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

2. Port of Hudaydah

The port of Al-Hudaydah, situated in the city of Al-Hudaydah, has historically served as a crucial entry point for approximately 80% of Yemen’s imports, it handles essential goods like food and basic commodities. Of the Yemen portslocated on the Red Sea, this seaport makes it indispensable for the movement of goods between Europe, Asia, and Africa via the Suez Canal. The ongoing military offensive has intensified Yemen’s humanitarian crisis, making Al-Hudaydah port critical for delivering crucial humanitarian aid. With 22.2 million Yemenis requiring humanitarian assistance, the port’s significance cannot be overstated. Challenges arising from unpredictable access due to the conflict have impacted voluntary humanitarian return missions, risking a potential famine.

3. Port of Mukalla

The Port of Mukalla, situated in Yemen, has endured the ongoing conflict without direct attacks or on-the-ground fighting, preserving its critical assets. However, operational challenges persist, with urgent needs for upgrades, repairs, and addressing maintenance issues. Tugboat capacity, mooring and pilot boats, supply chain management, quay wall conditions, and equipment issues require immediate attention. Most weathered of all Yemen ports, the operational readiness of this seaport hinges significantly on tugboat capacity, with only one operational tugboat facing engine issues.

The absence of a proper Terminal Operating System (TOS) impacts cargo flow management, necessitating a modern administrative control system. Quay wall conditions pose risks to safe asset use, demanding urgent rehabilitation. Equipment issues extend to container handling, emphasizing the need for acquiring new machinery. Safety awareness among port staff requires improvement. Despite these challenges, the port’s International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) compliance is noted.

4. Port of Mocha (Al Mokha)

The Port of Mocha, historically renowned as Al Mokha, traces its roots back to the 15th century when it played a pivotal role in the global coffee trade. Despite its historical significance, the port faces challenges in its current status, requiring revitalization. The aftermath of the conflict in Yemen has impacted the facilities, necessitating urgent repairs and spare parts. Accessibility to the port has been affected, potentially hindering its capacity as a key maritime gateway. Deficiencies in equipment maintenance jeopardize the port’s functionality, demanding immediate attention. With strategic investments in infrastructure and operational efficiency, a revitalized Port of Mocha could contribute significantly to trade and commerce amongst all the Yemen ports.

5. Port of Saleef

Situated north of Hodeidah towards the Saudi Arabian border, the Port of Saleef holds a strategic position within Kamaran Bay. Its natural protection and ongoing infrastructure development initiatives position it as a key player in Yemen’s maritime landscape. Primarily dedicated to bulk grain reception, Saleef Port serves as a crucial maritime facility for discharging vessels into silos. Plans for extending the quayside and potential expansion in storage capabilities mark its economic significance. The port’s location, protected anchorage, and trade activities emphasize its role in trade across all Yemen ports.

6. Ras Isa Oil Terminal

Ras Issa, strategically located in Kamaran Bay, boasts a deep-water port primarily dedicated to unloading diesel fuel in all Yemen ports. Recent geopolitical events and ongoing conflict pose challenges to the port’s operational continuity and emphasize its vulnerability in a volatile regional context. Operational aspects highlight the port’s reliance on the buoy system, pipelines, and storage facilities. The ongoing conflict underscores the port’s importance in Yemen’s oil exports. The Marib-Ras Isa Oil Pipeline plays a pivotal role in facilitating oil exports from Marib to the Ras Isa floating export terminal on the Red Sea.

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7. Port of Nishtun

Nishtun, a modest natural coastal harbor in Al-Mahara, Yemen, provides limited shelter from tides and swells. Despite its small size, Nishtun serves as an operational node with economic relevance. The anchorage and cargo pier’s capacity for handling moderate-sized ships, along with facilities for fresh water and refueling, contribute to its significance. Under the management of the Yemen Ports Authority, Nishtun’s role in regional connectivity is notable. Its commitment to competitive port operations ensures consistency in the cost structure for maritime services, emphasizing Nishtun’s importance in the broader Yemeni context.

8. Port of Ash Shihr

Ash Shihr Terminal, situated in the Hadhramaut Governorate, stands as a vital contributor to Yemen’s maritime landscape. Its historical roots as a key export center, coupled with its modern role in regional trade and exports, make it a significant player in Yemen’s economy. The integration of an offshore terminal featuring Single Point Mooring Systems (SPMs) showcases the port’s commitment to efficient maritime operations. Ash Shihr’s capability to handle tankers of varying capacities positions it as a versatile gateway for shipping activities, contributing significantly to the region’s prosperity.

9. Port of Al Hodeidah

Al Hodeidah, on Yemen’s Western coast, stands as a maritime jewel with deep historical roots. The construction of the deepwater port at Aḥmadī in 1961 marked a transformative period, turning it into a pivotal trade hub. Operating 8 berths and facilitating various cargo types, Al Hodeidah’s resilience during regional challenges underscores its vital role in Yemen’s maritime trade.

10. Port of Socotra

Constructed in 1996, the Port of Socotra, situated on the eponymous island in the Indian Ocean, is a maritime marvel. Its strategic location and role as the island’s solitary marine seaport make it a lifeline for Socotra, symbolizing resilience and self-sufficiency. The port’s economic significance goes beyond trade metrics, embodying survival for the islanders.

Impact of Conflict on Yemen’s Ports

Analysis of how regional conflict affects port operations

Amid escalating geopolitical tensions in the Southern Red Sea, Yemen’s Hodeida and Saleef ports persist in operation despite recent Houthi attacks on vessels. However, the overall security situation in Yemen and surrounding seas remains precarious, urging a case-by-case evaluation for all port calls. The Israel-Gaza conflict has heightened tensions, impacting maritime routes, with the Yemeni Houthis showcasing their ability to disrupt shipping. The conflict’s dynamic nature amplifies uncertainties, impacting the predictability and stability of port operations, thus throwing challenging situation pertaining to the best mode of freight movement. The struggle for territorial control in key areas further exacerbates the situation, leaving ports vulnerable to damage and creating obstacles to smooth trade and transport

Security Measures and Navigational Challenges

Amidst conflict, security measures at Yemen ports take center stage. The heightened geopolitical tensions translate into increased security protocols, impacting the efficiency of cargo handling. Navigational challenges arise not only from the physical damage inflicted on port infrastructure but also from the intensified surveillance and restrictions. Vessels navigating these ports struggle with enhanced scrutiny. The delicate balance between ensuring security and maintaining the flow of goods necessitates a nuanced approach to mitigate risks without unduly impeding maritime activities.

Role of Ports in Humanitarian Aid Delivery

Yemen ports become humanitarian gateways, facilitating aid delivery to a population grappling with the consequences of conflict. However, this role is fraught with challenges. The conflict introduces security risks that hinder the seamless flow of aid. Additionally, the dual use of ports for both commercial trade and humanitarian efforts poses logistical challenges. Coordinating the prioritization of humanitarian shipments while maintaining regular trade operations demands meticulous planning. The ports’ significance in alleviating the humanitarian crisis underscores the need for international collaboration to ensure unimpeded access for aid organizations, offering a lifeline to those in need.

Current State of Port Congestion

The recalibration of import routes, coupled with security apprehensions and direct attacks, has brought Yemen’s maritime operations to a critical juncture. This situation is further complicated by the Houthi militia’s sway over imports, adding layers of intricacy.

Impact on Shipping, Trade, and Humanitarian Aid

The congestion ripple effect is profound, impacting shipping, trade, and the dispensation of humanitarian aid. The Port of Hodeidah, now a pivotal entry, grapples with intensified congestion. Shipping firms, cautious amidst security uncertainties, contribute to cargo handling delays. Trade experiences disruptions, altering established routes and exacerbating economic strains. Houthi militia influence introduces trade complexities. Humanitarian aid, delayed due to congested ports, deepens Yemen’s dire humanitarian crisis.

Initiatives to Mitigate Port Congestion

Applicable3 to almost all Yemen ports, untangling these webs of war requires addressing root causes: the conflict, security concerns, and fortifying port capacity. International cooperation is pivotal, given the escalating geopolitical tensions in the Red Sea region. Besides, the political intention and intervention, technology such as route optimization plays a crucial role in mitigating the glaring challenges of port congestion.

Role of International Aid and Development Projects

In this intricate scenario, international aid and development projects emerge as key players in untangling port congestion. Collaborative efforts, bolstered by global stakeholders, offer avenues to enhance port infrastructure, streamline operations, and cushion against the geopolitical impact on trade.

Future of Yemen’s Ports

Concurrent supply chain trends reflect that despite the prevailing challenges, Yemen’s ports harbor significant potential for growth. Strategic investments can fortify port capacity, efficiency, and resilience, elevating them to prominent roles in global trade. These ports, integral to Yemen’s economic revival, demand a targeted approach involving both local and international stakeholders.

International Efforts for Port Development

Amidst regional intricacies, international efforts are paramount for port development. Collaborative strategies, mindful of security concerns, can bolster operational capacities and instill stability. Embracing technological advancements, from modernized cargo handling to advanced security measures, is vital for steering Red Sea ports, particularly those in Yemen, through challenges.


In concavity of challenges surrounding Red Sea ports, Yemen, necessitates a cooperative and forward-thinking approach. International solidarity, informed investments, and technological adoptions stand as linchpins in mitigating port congestion, fostering economic recovery, and ensuring the sustained vitality of these critical maritime assets.