Ma'alla was historically associated with the construction of sailboats. Later in the nineteenth century, it grew into a port for sailing ships and small steam ships with a number of cargo stores were built along the sidewalks. The main port of the city of Aden was located on the front bay of Crater, but it was not protected from monsoons, so Ma'alla port was made the main port of the colony of Aden in the year 1864.
To keep pace with the modern development wheel in the ports of the world after the reopening of the Suez Canal, direct births were built in Ma'alla at the end of the eighties and supplied with modern equipment to handle all types of goods.
Ma’alla Wharf has berths at different depths, from west to east:
- A RoRo berth 150m long, depth 7.60m, with a ramp width of 20m. General cargo ships of up to LOA 144m use it.
- Four main berths, Nos 1-4, each 187.5m in length along 750m of quay with a depth alongside of 11.0m. The turning area north of these berths is 280m wide and extends the full length of the main berths.
- Two berths, 5 and 6, for ‘home trade’ ships and dhows at the Home Trade Quay, which has a total length of 250m and depth alongside of 6.70m. It has a turning area of the same depth extending 250m from the quay wall over the length of the berths.
- 800m of lighter and dhow quays at depths of between 1.8 and 2.7m.
Berths 1 and 2 are used for container handling, and also for bulk and general cargo vessels. Containers are handled by YGAPC. These berths are equipped with two Liebherr Ship to Shore gantry cranes that are Panamax capable with a 38m outreach. Crane capacity is 40 tonnes under the spreader and 50 tonnes under the hook for heavy lifts. The cranes are not currently in use and the berth is used on demand by geared container ships, mainly those carrying aid cargoes.
The container yard covers an area of 7 hectares and has 426 x 20 foot ground slots with a storage capacity of 852 TEUs (two high). The yard is equipped with 110 reefer points, fork lift trucks, top loaders, tractor and trailer units for handling full and empty containers and provides space for unstuffing/stuffing containers. An additional 4 hectares behind the main cargo sheds at berths 3 and 4 is allocated for container handling and unstuffing/stuffing operations.
General Cargo/Bulk berths
The two main conventional/bulk berths are 3 and 4 at the Ma'alla Terminal. Cargo ships of up to 36,000 DWT, 180m LOA and draught 10.4m can berth at the Ma'alla Terminal at zero tide. Ships with draughts of up to 10.7m can be berthed, with special permission from the Port Officer, when tides are favourable.
Bulk wheat is discharged at these berths using two methods. Containerized automatic bagging plants fed by pneumatic suction pumps from the ships’ holds are available to automatically fill and stitch bags for direct delivery to trucks. At Ma’alla berth 3 a ‘Swiveltel’ rail mounted automatic discharging plant delivers grain via an overhead conveyor to the 50,000 tonnes silos at the Rowaishan Flour Mills complex behind berths 2, 3 and 4. Various bulk cargoes may also be unloaded by grab to hoppers feeding into trucks, or into barges.
Two large cargo sheds, 170m x 60m, are located at berths 3 and 4, with smaller sheds positioned to the rear of the Home Trade quay and behind the lighter and dhow quays.
A bulk cement receiving, storage and bagging plant operates behind the Home Trade Quay Shed 23, with bulk vessels discharging to this by pipeline from berths 4 and 5. A second bulk cement storage and bagging plant, with four vertical silos, is located east of the Home Trade Quay and is connected to this quay by pipeline for pneumatic discharge of cement. Bulk cement is also delivered to the Ma’alla Terminal using bulk cement carriers with on-board automatic bagging equipment.
A number of mobile harbour cranes are available to handle cargoes at the Ma’alla Terminals, plus a 30 MT capacity floating crane operated by YGAPC.
Class 1 dangerous goods cannot be handled alongside at Ma’alla and must be discharged to barge at a buoy berth, then moved by barge to the Obstruction Pier east of Ma’alla.