The Port of Aden lies on the northern coast of the Gulf of Aden on the Little Aden peninsula that encloses western side of the Al-Tawahi Harbour in Yemen almost 200 kilometers southeast of the Port of Mokha and about 127 nautical miles northeast of the Port of Djibouti. The Port of Aden contains three sectors: the old commercial district, the business section, and the native harbor area. In 2004, over 589 thousand people lived in the Port of Aden.
The economy of the Port of Aden depends on its function as a commercial center for the surrounding regions and as a refueling stop for ocean-going vessels. The city is home to small industry that includes light manufacturing, production of marine salt, and boat-building.
The Port of Aden rests on an ancient natural harbor in the crater of an extinct volcano that forms the peninsula that protects the harbor. Aden was first mentioned in historical records in the Old TestamentBook of Ezekiel as a trading partner with Tyre. The harbor was first used between the 5th and 7th Centuries B.C. by the Kingdom of Awsan.
Being about the same distance from Mumbai (Bombay) and Zanzibar, the ancient Port of Aden was a way-station for sea-going vessels and people. They stopped there to get supplies, particularly fresh water.
Arab historians describe the first fortifications in the Port of Aden to Beni Zuree'a who built the structures to protect the village from its enemies and to control the movement of goods in the area in order to prevent smuggling. The original fortifications were rebuilt in 1175 AD.
The Port of Aden is an ancient seaport. Marco Polo and Ibn Battutu visited the port in the 11th and 12th Centuries. The Chinese Emperor from the Ming Dynasty sent an envoy with gifts to the King of Aden in 1421.
In the 19th Century, it was an important ship fuelling port for steamers. After the Suez Canal opened, the Port of Aden became one of the busiest ship-bunkering, duty-free shopping, and trading ports in the world.
In 1838, the British took the Port of Aden and over 19 thousand hectares in the state of Lahej from Sultan Muhsin bin Fadl. In 1839, the British East India Company and Royal Marines occupied the territory to stop attacks by pirates who were assailing British ships going to India. The British also used the Port of Aden as a station for replenishing coal and boiler water. The British held the Port of Aden until 1967.
Until 1937, the Port of Aden was considered part of British India and was called the Aden Settlement. In 1937, the settlement was separated from India, becoming the British Crown Colony of Aden. The Port of Aden was also a distribution point for mail between British colonies. After the British lost the Suez Canal in 1956, the Port of Aden became the main British base for the region.
Under British rule, the Port of Aden was a tanker port that served British Petroleum Aden and offered amenities to British crews and refinery workers. Thousands of skilled workers and laborers were imported to build and operate the refinery. Much of the housing that was created for the workers is home to wealthy locals today. The British also housed troops in the Port of Aden to protect the refinery.
Facing pressure from the Soviet Union-backed communists in North Yemen, the British tried to prepare the different states under their control for independence. The Port of Aden colony was made part of the Federation of Arab Emirates of the South in 1963 under opposition from the North Yemen communists who claimed the city and region. Later, the region was renamed the Federation of South Arabia (FSA).
In 1963, resistance to British rule began with the Aden Emergency, a grenade attack on the British High Commissioner by the communist National Liberation Front (NLF). A state of emergency was declared in response. While the British announced their intention to make the FSA independent by 1968, they would leave British military units in the Port of Aden. Tensions continued to rise.
Riots broke out in the Port of Aden in 1967 between the NLF and the rival Front for the Liberation of Occupied South Yemen. Fighting continued for several weeks despite British intervention. Both sides attacked British troops throughout the conflict, and an airplane was destroyed mid-air with no survivors. The British left the area in late 1967, and the NLF was in control.
In 1970, the Port of Aden became the capital of the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen. British Petroleum turned the oil refinery and tanker port in the Port of Aden over to the Yemeni government in 1977.
When the Suez Canal was closed in the 1970s, traffic through the Port of Aden declined. New quays were built in the 1980s to improve its competitive position and meet the demands of the changing marine trade industry. By the end of the 1980s, the Port of Aden had capacity to handle all types of dry cargo and modern containers.
When north and south Yemen were united in 1990, the Port of Aden became the capital of the Aden Governate but not of the nation. Since the 1990s, ports in Yemen are undergoing rapid privatization, increased investment, and growing manufacturing output. In 1998/99, the Port of Aden reached an all-time record for containerized cargo, with over 100 thousand TEUs passing through the port.
In 1992, the first recorded attack by Al Qaeda occurred with the bombing of the Gold Mohur Hotel in the Port of Aden. For a short time in 1994, the Port of Aden was the center of the secessionist Democratic Republic of Yemen. In 2000, the Port of Aden was the site of an Al Qaeda attempt to bomb the USS The Sullivans, but the attacking boat sank and the plan was aborted. Later that year, the bombing of the USS Cole succeeded.