With violent conflicts and fighting continue at most Yemeni ports, shipping lines are pulling away from the country that’s devolved into chaos in past weeks.
A report in Reuters, quoting industry sources and ship tracking data, says that at least four oil and natural gas tankers that were headed to Yemen have been diverted as chaos mounts in the country after the launch of Saudi-led air strikes last month.
Warships from the Saudi-led coalition have blocked a vessel carrying more than 47,000 tonnes of wheat from entering a Yemeni port, demanding United Nations guarantees that the cargo would not go to military personnel, shipping sources said on Thursday.
International shipping lines are being forced to scale back or suspend port calls to Yemen as the conflict gets worse, putting pressure on supplies of food as prices rise in local markets.
Several companies, including France's Total and APR Energy Plc have either evacuated staff or ceased operations due to the conflict.
Most ports appear to be under Iran-allied Houthi movement and al-Qaida jihadis' control or are disputed by combatants. Many shipping companies are now unwilling to risk their vessels, industry sources say.
Saudi Arabia and Arab allies have deployed naval vessels to intercept ships carrying arms to the rebels, although merchant ships are meant to have free passage.
Many of the owners and container lines are refusing to go to Yemen. You can still call at a number of ports but the fear factor is growing, says a source.
The world's largest global shipping association, BIMCO, said: "If a port is taken/held by the Houthis and a ship is seen to be supplying the rebels, the ship could be at risk from air strikes or indeed naval action from the coalition."
Food imports into the Arab world's poorest country began grinding to a halt a week after the Saudi-led coalition began its operations in Yemen, putting the fragile supply chains under growing strain and commercial suppliers stay away.