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Egypt’s Ports Working on Limited Basis, Inchcape Says

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Feb. 2 (Bloomberg) -- Egypt’s ports are mostly operating on a limited basis because of a lack of staff and the Suez Canal, used to carry about 8 percent of global seaborne trade, is working normally, Inchcape Shipping Services reported.

The port of Alexandria is accepting vessels to discharge cargoes and Damietta is restricted to container ships, Inchcape said in a notice on its website today. The east of Port Said is closed and the west has limited operations.

“In global terms it would be a fairly minor impact if the ports stay closed for any length of time because the volumes of cargo through Egyptian ports are not enormous,” said Chris Reilly, managing director of London-based BRS Futures Ltd., the derivatives arm of Barry Rogliano Salles.

Egypt is the world’s biggest wheat importer with 9.8 million metric tons expected to ship to the country in the 12 months to June, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The port of Alexandria, on the country’s Mediterranean coast and west of the Suez Canal, handles about 60 percent of the country’s foreign trade, according to the port authority’s website.

Supporters of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak clashed today in central Cairo with demonstrators demanding an end to the 30-year-reign of the president, who said yesterday he won’t step down until an election in September.

Fastest Crossing

The Suez Canal is the fastest crossing from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean, according to the Suez Canal Authority. Should it close, tankers would have to sail around Southern Africa. That would add about 12 days to a journey from Saudi Arabia to Houston, Luis Mateus, an analyst at Riverlake Shipping SA in Geneva, estimated last week.

The canal is operating normally, Ahmed El Manakhly, head of traffic for the Suez Canal Authority, said by phone earlier today. About 56 ships were transiting yesterday and about 50 today, he said.

CMA CGM SA, the world’s third-largest container shipping line, said today it’s still accepting bookings for Egypt and its ships are moving through the Suez Canal.

“The group’s vessels maintain all their calls to Egyptian main terminals (Damietta, Alexandria and Port Said West & East),” the company said in a statement. “Once the port of Ein Sokhna reopens, we will resume our vessels calls.”

The Suez Canal has been secured by the army, CMA CGM said in a statement on its website yesterday.

Inchcape employs 3,500 people across 66 countries providing marine services to the oil, container, cruise and bulk commodity shipping industries. In Egypt, it has offices in Alexandria, Cairo, Damietta, Port Said and Port Suez.

To contact the reporters on this story: Alistair Holloway in London at aholloway1@bloomberg.net; Stuart Wallace in London at swallace6@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Claudia Carpenter at ccarpenter2@bloomberg.net.

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