Port of Aden
The USS Cole, an Arleigh Burke class destroyer, was the target of a terrorist attack in the port of Aden on 12 October 2000, during a scheduled refueling. The attack killed 17 crew members and injured 39 others.
When ships come from Norfolk, they go through the Mediterranean, then down through the Red Sea. Somewhere in this area the ship is going to have to fuel unless it has an oiler along with it. Once the decision has been made to commence refueling stops or port visits in a particular country, specific arrangements are made for the visit, in terms of fuel, pilot services and the like. This is done under the conditions of the contract that is set. It includes the US Embassy working with the Navy. It is done with the port authority, the local government, and their security forces.
Yemen is a strategically important location. There is a choke-point there, the Bab el Mandeb, that the Navy is charged by Central Command to keep open, like the Suez Canal and the Strait of Hormuz. There has been a dispute between Eritrea and Yemen regarding the Hanish Islands right at the choke point at the Bab el Mandeb. Yemen also had a dispute with Saudi Arabia over border issues. These often turn violent.
From 1991 to 1996, the US had no relations with Yemen, due to Yemen's position in the Gulf War. In 1990, they had just come out of their own civil war and begun reunification, and they were having a difficult time coming to grips with their own internal problems and security. In 1996 and 1997, Yemen expressed an interest to improve relationships with the United States. The Navy was looking for another port at that time, partially because of the unsatisfactory conditions that existed in Djibouti. The US Navy had been in Djibouti for refueling, and was interested in terminating that contract because at that time in Djibouti the threat conditions were far worse. The port was extremely busy, with many small boats, and the conditions ashore and in the government were not satisfactory. Oman's nearest port is Salalah, which had great potential. The port was under development when the Navy was looking at these ports, but it was too far to bring a ship around and going that long without refueling. And at that point and time, Salalah had not been developed.
The Defense Energy Support Center conducted a survey of the port in November 1998, and they put bids out. The contract was awarded in December 1998. Under the contract, the first ship refueled on the first of March 1999, although the Navy had refueled three ships prior to that. So there were 27 ships that have gone into there and refueled prior to the Cole. And before that, there were two ships that made ship visits in there. When the Navy made ship visits in there, this was carefully done. This was certainly not a liberty port. The Navy did some basic civic action, painting of orphanages, that sort of thing, but they were very limited. The Port of Aden is situated between the promontories of Aden (Jebel Shamsan, 553 m) and Little Aden (Jebel Muzalqam, 374 m) and is protected from the NE and SW monsoons by these hills and along the northern boundary by land, enabling it to operate without restriction all year. The harbor covers an area some 8 nm east-west and 3 nm north-south. The port consists of the outer harbor, providing anchorage areas, the oil harbour at Little Aden on the west side of the harbor, and the inner harbor to the east. These harbors are reached by a channel from the entrance mid-way between the promontories. The outer section of the channel has a depth of 16.0 m. From the bifurcation point, a channel heading north west to the Little Aden oil harbour has a depth of 14.7 m, leading to four berths for oil tankers at depths of between 11.6 and 15.8 m, alongside LPG and dry cargo berths, and a RoRo berth, all at a depth of11.0 meters. The story of Aden as a trading centre stretches back over 3000 years. Marco Polo and Ibn Batuta visited it in the 11th and 12th Centuries. In the 1800's, Aden grew as ship fuelling port, holding stocks of coal and water supplies for the early steamers. 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. Aden's 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, Aden's 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 world's top bunkering ports, handling over 6,300 ships a year. Barges took cargo between ships berthed in the Inner Harbor and the wharves. Coastal vessels and dhows carried cargoes to and from regional ports. With the Suez Canal closed from 1967 through 1975, Aden declined under intense competition from new ports in the region and changes in the patterns of trade.
To handle the world's largest container vessels, the Aden Container Terminal (ACT) at the North Shore of Aden's Inner Harbour was designed and built. This facility was commissioned in March 1999 and provides the port with world-class container handling facilities. 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.
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