|If you stand on Jebel Shamsan some 600
metres above the city of Aden and look out to sea, the horizon is about 45 miles away.
From here you can see the ships which move between the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean and
pass within a few miles of the harbour.
Aden has been a
major regional centre at various times during the past 3000 years. Over this long span,
visitors with vision have always been impressed by the port and by the opportunities for
trade which it offers. Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta both noted the prosperity of Aden as a
Just under 160 years ago Captain Haines and the British arrived,
to stay for 128 years. Aden was a village of 600 souls when Haines stated that it could
become a major trading centre. The latter part of the British period proved him correct
and Aden grew to become one of the busiest ports in the world.
Aden was declared a Free Port in 1850 as it took control of the
coffee exporting trade. From 1869 the Suez Canal shortened the sea distance between London
and Bombay from over 10,700 miles to 6,270 miles. Adens coal bunkering and
re-provisioning trade accelerated. Aden was fortunate to be connected to the London/Bombay
telegraph cable, giving it great advantages in east/west communications. By 1901,
Adens inner harbour had been dredged to 30 feet to handle the largest ships of those
days. In 1919 Aden introduced oil bunkering and became, by the 1950s, one of the
worlds top bunkering ports, handling over 6,300 ships a year. When construction of
the oil refinery and oil harbour was completed in 1954, Aden began to import and refine
crude oil. Calls by cargo and passenger vessels made Aden the worlds fourth largest
tax-free shopping port. It became the regional base for dhow, coastal, and deep-sea
traffic. Dhows trading between the Gulf, Pakistan, the Red Sea and East Africa were
regular callers and by mid-century Aden was handling over 1,500 dhows annually.
Aden has many advantages for shipping which helped to make it a
regional distribution centre and will favour it in future:
- It is directly on the main round-the-world and the Far East to
Europe/America trade route, with a deviation of only 4 miles from this route to the pilot
- It has clear approaches from waters 20-40 metres deep without
reefs, is well-marked by aids to navigation, has clear weather, and a well-planned and
easy channel four miles from fairway buoy to berth;
- It provides deep water in one of the worlds largest natural
harbours, protected from prevailing winds during winter months by 500 metres high hills to
south and east, and from the summer SW monsoon by hills 350 metres high to the south west;
- It operates 365 days a year;
- It is some 4,570 miles from NE Europe and 3,640 miles from
Singapore and very well placed to provide trans-shipment services to East Africa, the Red
Sea, the sub-Continent and the Gulf;
- It enjoys a dry climate with temperatures of around 28 deg C
through the winter and 38 deg C during the summer (May-August).
Based on these splendid advantages, Aden developed and expanded
its port services until 1967, when the Suez Canal closed for eight years. This, added to
uncertainties of national independence, led to a severe downturn in Adens trade when
other states in the region were beginning to generate substantial oil revenues. New ports
in the region handling massive amounts of construction and project cargo then became major
cargo centres. Aden had no facilities for handling containers and was starved of
investment capital. All dry cargo was handled at buoys in the inner harbour before being
transferred to the Home Trade quay by lighters. Double handling, the accepted means of
working cargoes in most ports up to the 1960s, continued at Aden into the 1980s.
THE MA'ALLA TERMINAL
The Yemen Port Authority (YPA) fully realised that cargo handling
methods at Aden had to change and that the solution was to build new berths. By 1988 YPA
had secured finance from Arab Funds to build the Maalla Terminal. This provided the
Port with the first alongside berths for large dry cargo vessels. In 1993 the first
container gantry quay crane arrived and a second crane in 1995, allowing Aden to offer
container trans-shipment services. 1997 and 1998 have seen steady growth, with 1998
showing an accelerating upward trend in the number of ship calls and tonnage of bulk,
general and containerised cargoes. Container volume almost doubled between 1994-97 and
will be substantially higher in 1998 thanks to trans-shipment volume.
Although trends are positive, the Port has been very conscious
during the 1 990s that Adens position as a service and distribution centre for the
region has been lost. But restoring Aden to its former position is now, we believe,
entirely possible. Various developments in international shipping make this time the
right time to act. Aden comes late to the modern container trans-shipment business, but
there are certain advantages in this. The growth in ship size, re-grouping of shipping
companies and changes in international trade patterns favour a terminal built specifically
to serve the new generation of container ships, offering a high standard of service in the
right location. Following unity in 1990, various studies by British, World Bank and other
consultants concluded that Aden is very well placed geographically to develop container
trans-shipment services. The Free Zone Authority was established in 1990 and a
concession agreement to construct and operate a new container terminal and an industrial
development zone was approved in November 1995.
ADEN CONTAINER TERMINAL
Yeminvest and PSA Corporation, with Hyundai, are currently
completing the new deepwater container terminal the Aden Container Terminal (ACT)
on the North Shore. The quay wall for ACT can be taken to a depth of 18 metres,
four metres deeper than Jebel Ali (Dubai), Jeddah or Colombo. ACT will be able to handle
the worlds largest existing and planned container ships. Initial dredging is being
carried out to 16 metres (53 feet) alongside and in the outer section of the channel.
Tidal patterns effectively give the Port 16.8 metres alongside for 18 hours each day for
almost the whole year.
The first phase of the North Shore berths, 700 metres, will be in
place by 17 March 1999. Phase II will provide a further 350 metres and Phase III 600
metres to give a Terminal length of 1650 metres. Other phases should follow. ACT will be
equipped with the latest super post-Panamax quay cranes, with an outreach of 57 metres.
Yard gantry cranes, reefer points, engineering maintenance and facilities to match and
support quay crane capacity are also being installed.
The construction of ACT and the restoration of Adens former
position as a regional service and distribution centre will be a vital element in the
economic development of Yemen. Its importance to the Port, to the city of Aden and to
Yemen cannot be overemphasised. YPA believes that this will prove to be the
key project to attract inward investment for infrastructure development and a
wide range of industrial activities. The project is emblematic of improvements in
political and economic stability in Yemen over the past three years which other investors
recognise. The degree of interest and confidence in the country is rising.
There will be competition from other regional ports. Some of these
have grown impressively over the past thirty years and traffic in the more successful ones
is dominated by container trans-shipment. Container movement world-wide increased at
around 8-9% annually in the 1990s and is predicted to grow at between 7-8% until 2010.
Container handling was a market which did not exist when Aden was a major bunkering
port, but has become a market which Aden can and will bid to share.
Aden will soon have facilities for the very largest container
ships, a growing percentage of which will by then be in the 7000+ TEU class. Ships
carrying over 4,500 TEUs, which currently make up only 1.7% of the world fleet, are
expected to form 33% of the worlds container fleet by 2010. Aden will soon be ready
to handle ships of this size, and larger, and to re-gain its position as a regional hub
OTHER PORT ACTIVITIES
Aden is not only a container port. Other services have been
provided in the past and will be provided in the future. Ship bunkering is an obvious
example and there is considerable interest in expanding present facilities and developing
new ones to offer in-harbour and offshore bunkering services. New bulk handling equipment
at Maalla, greater economic activity and higher efficiency allowed Aden to raise its
tonnage for major imported commodities by 87% in 1996 over 1995. YPA predicts that this
will increase to 1.4 million tonnes by the end of the century and to 1.9 million tonnes by
Ship repair services are also seen as having considerable
potential for expansion. Classification Societies which were formerly based at Aden may be
expected to reestablish offices at Aden. Marine surveying and insurance services
will grow. At the airport a cargo village will support sea-air cargo business.
Crew changing, supply of spare parts for machinery and electrical items, ship stores etc.
are also expected to expand. Calls by passenger ships, at around 18-20 per year at
present, help to develop the growing tourist business in Yemen, while yachts find Aden a
good place to visit for fuel, stores and communications and many now call during the
FUTURE PORT DEVELOPMENT
When one looks at the chart of Aden, the sheer size of the natural
harbour contained inside the rim of hills and shore is impressive. The twelve kilometres
east-west and six kilometres north-south provide a very large area of sheltered water.
When Captain Haines first surveyed the harbour in 1835, water
depths on the south side of what is now the inner harbour were around 20 feet. It took
eleven years to complete the first deepening programme to increase the depth to 30 feet.
Dredging technology has moved on and the current deepening by 4 metres has taken a total
of around thirty weeks. Sea bed materials of excellent quality are being used for
constructing Phases I III of ACT and YPA has reclaimed over eighty hectares of land
on the north side of the Rubble Mound for future construction.
YPA visualises the expansion of the Port to the west, to provide a
sheltered basin within the natural basin formed by hills and shore. It would be developed
for various purposes, including industrial processes which need access to deep quay space.
Yemen can provide workers for some of the more labour-intensive industries currently
looking for sites and, with easy access from all points of the compass, it would be
difficult to improve upon Adens location.
Visitors to the Port of Aden often comment that Aden is a very
real place. A real city with real people, with a real port in a place where
God intended one to be. After years of decline and under-utilisation, Aden will enter the
next millennium challenging others for its rightful place as a major distribution centre.
The dreams of three years ago are assuming tangible form.
A number of strategic planners, looking at container movement in
the next century, conclude that hub and spoke operations for
containers are here to stay, and that trans-shipment will be focused on a small number of
ports in key locations. The physical characteristics, expertise, and facilities of these
ports will enable them to handle very large container ships with great efficiency. One
recent report predicts that by 2010 there will be just five major ports handling
the bulk of the worlds trans-shipped container traffic. Aden is identified as one
We believe in the future of Aden, and hope that many of you will
have good cause to visit Aden in the coming months and years. You will be following in the
steps of some famous travellers. And perhaps you will capture something of the vision
which we have whenever we look out from the hills around the Port.