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Cabinet discusses developing situation in Middle East |21 December 2023

Cabinet discusses developing  situation in Middle East

Vice-President Afif and Brigadier Rosette during the press debriefing (Photo: Joena Meme)

Warns of hike in prices of commodities


By Sunny Esparon


The suspension of operations by some major cargo fleets in the Red Sea could pose a major challenge to Seychelles’ economy.

The matter was discussed at yesterday’s cabinet meeting, chaired by President Wavel Ramkalawan, where the developing situation in the Middle East, in relation to maritime security, was addressed.

In a cabinet debriefing held at State House, yesterday afternoon, Vice-President Ahmed Afif said several major cargo fleets such as CMA CGM, Lloyd, Maersk and Evergreen, which represent 15 percent of cargo travelling through the world, will no longer be travelling through the Red Sea.

VP Afif said this poses a major challenge to the country, considering Seychelles relies heavily on importation, with 90 percent coming in by sea, as it is less costly. A lot of merchandise from Europe to Seychelles travel through the Middle East and the Red Sea. Seychelles also imports its fuel mainly from Fujairah in the Middle-East, he noted.

“So we expect the cost of freight will increase, as well as fuel prices not only because of shipping movement but due to a conflict in the region. So this is a threat to us,” explained Mr Afif.

He said the country would therefore expect a period where there will be an increase in the prices of commodities and delays in the arrival of merchandise into the country.

“For example, if it takes 14 days to travel from Europe to Seychelles via the Red Sea, it will now take you 30 days if you have to go across Africa,” he explained.

The shipping route will also have an impact on Seychelles’ export sector, which is primarily tuna to the European market, whose cost would also rise due to the longer route.

“Cabinet took note of this and we need to give a helping hand, and join other countries to ensure the maritime route remains secure, similar to what we did during piracy attacks of 2009-2010,” explained VP Afif.

He noted Seychelles was among the first to join the Combined Maritime Force (CMF), set up in 2012 to ensure regional maritime security and it has been an active member for the past 11 years.

Cabinet discussed how Seychelles should maintain its efforts, considering the country relies heavily on the sea, and has a vast marine area as part of its territory.

“So it is our obligation during difficult times, when our participation is more pronounced, it is our role to come forward and do our bit.” However, he stated that considering the size of the country, and its limited resources, Seychelles will not be deploying a navy ship or soldiers to patrol the Red Sea. It is rather involved in sharing of information, which encompasses all maritime security matters including fights against drug trafficking and illegal fishing.

This was echoed by Chief of Defence Forces (CDF), Brigadier Michael Rosette, who was in attendance. “We will not have any men or women in uniform who will engage in any conflict over there. This is clear in the CMF mandate,” he stated.

Another topic taken by the cabinet was the expansion of the Seychelles International Airport to cater for an increase in the number of planes and travellers to Seychelles.  The Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority gave an overview of the present constraints and a general idea of how the airport should be enhanced to cater for the future.

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