LONDON - Yemen is facing mounting problems bringing in food by sea as the danger from fighting between Houthis and government supporters is exacerbated by an arms blockade by Saudi-led coalition navies searching ships for weapons destined for the rebels.
The Arabian peninsula's poorest country, Yemen imports more than 90 percent of its food, including most of its wheat and all its rice, to feed a population of 25 million, most of it by sea.
Fighting with the Iranian-allied Houthi militia who have seized large tracts of the country expanded last month when the Saudi-led alliance intervened to back President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Riyadh said last week it was scaling back its campaign but Sunday saw some of the most widespread combat since the war began.
Several top international shipping lines have either pulled out or reduced port calls due to the violence.
Ship tracking and port data on Monday showed at least 10 ships, many carrying wheat and corn, were still waiting to enter Yemeni waters and discharge at ports including al-Saleef and the bigger Red Sea port of Hodaida, which is controlled by Houthis.
Reuters reported two weeks ago at least five merchant ships were held up. Only two of those vessels have fully discharged so far with a third docked currently, ship tracking data and shipping sources said.