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Volumes up at Saudi ports in spite of Red Sea attacks

Saudi ports Jeddah Reuters/Florian Gaertner
Jeddah, one of the 10 ports overseen by the Saudi Ports Authority, Mawani, which together have seen container numbers rise
  • Imported TEUs up 12% y-o-y
  • Total cargo handled up 4%
  • However transshipments fall 48%

Container volumes at Saudi Arabia’s ports were up last month compared to March 2023 despite continuing attacks on shipping in the Red Sea, data from the kingdom’s ports authority shows.

The Saudi Ports Authority, known as Mawani, oversees 10 ports. These include facilities in Jeddah, Yanbu and Jazan on the country’s Red Sea coast, and Dammam, Al Jubail and Ras Al Khair on the Arabian Gulf.

The number of imported TEUs, twenty-foot equivalent units, the standard industry metric for counting container volumes, was more than 265,000 in March, up 12 percent versus the same month of 2023, Mawani said in a statement.

Export TEUs rose 9 percent to almost 213,000 over the same period, while total cargo handled expanded 4 percent to almost 20 million tonnes.

However, the number of transshipments – containers which arrive in port on one ship and then leave on another without being emptied of their cargo – fell 48 percent year on year to almost 142,500.

Around 15 percent of global trade passes through the Red Sea and 12 percent through the Suez Canal’s northern exit, the World Trade Organization (WTO) estimates.

Since mid-November Yemen’s Ansar Allah group, widely referred to as Houthis, have attacked more than 50 ships in the Red Sea that they say are linked to Israel in response to the Gaza conflict.

In the most recent attacks, on April 10, the Houthis claimed to have used drones and naval missiles in the Gulf of Aden to target the Liberia-flagged MSC Darwin and the Panama-flagged MSC Gina, which the group claimed were both Israeli-owned

However, the WTO believes the impact of the Houthis’ actions “may be more limited than initially feared”, the organisation wrote in its Global Trade Outlook and Statistics report, published on Wednesday.

It pointed to the continuing use of the Suez Canal; relatively small delays re-routing shipping around the Cape of Good Hope; moderate consumer demand and sufficient inventories; manageable freight cost; stable energy markets; and an improved availability of shipping capacity compared to the period of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

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