First ship carrying general cargo in years docks at Yemen's port of Hodeidah

English version

اليمن العربي

A container ship carrying general commercial goods docked at Yemen's main port of Hodeidah for the first time since at least 2016 on Saturday as parties in Yemen's eight-year war are in talks to reinstate an expired U.N.-brokered truce deal.

Goods arriving at Hodeidah have to be vetted by a U.N. body established to prevent arms shipments from entering Yemen. In the past seven years، Djibouti-based UNVIM has given approval only to ships carrying specific goods like foodstuffs، fuel and cooking oil.

An official in the internationally recognised Yemeni government told Reuters that granting access to commercial ships was a trust-building step aimed at supporting Saudi-Houthi talks to reinstate the truce، which expired in October.

Port officials said the SHEBELLE، which according to ship tracking data is an Ethiopian-flagged general cargo ship، was given clearance by the United Nations inspection body، the Verification and Inspection Mechanism for Yemen (UNVIM).

"The mechanism previously only provided clearance for specific shipments but now UNVIM is granting clearances for all kinds of shipments to Hodeidah port،" said Muhammad Abu-Bakr bin Ishaq، head of Houthi-run Red Sea Ports Corporation.

He didn't say anything about the ship's cargo.

He told Reuters that increased flow of goods into the western port would reduce transportation costs for products which were entering via the government-controlled port of Aden in the south.

UNVIM did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment. The spokesperson for the Saudi-led Arab military coalition that patrols the waters off Yemen did not respond.

Reuters saw three container vessels docked on Saturday.

Djibouti-based UNVIM، which began operations in May 2016، was set up as the coalition accused the Houthis of smuggling Iranian arms. The Houthis and Tehran deny the charges.

Direct talks between Saudi Arabia and the millitas، facilitated by Oman، are parallel to U.N.-led efforts to restore the truce، which has largely held، establish a formal ceasefire and launch inclusive political negotiations.

The war has killed tens of thousands of people، destroyed Yemen's economy and left millions hungry.