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All ports in Egypt close

01/31/2011 @ 7:47am

LONDON (Dow Jones)--Wheat shipments to top importer Egypt face delays after operations at the country's ports were suspended amid ongoing anti-government protests, the general secretary of the Egyptian International Freight Forwarding Association said Monday.

"Everything has been suspended except the Suez Canal," Medhat El Kady, who is also the vice chairman of shipping company Kadmar Group, told Dow Jones Newswires.

"The grain vessels are discharging if the silos have space and only during the daytime. Most of the container ships are discharging in other Mediterranean ports because of the curfew. Nobody knows when everything will be back to normal."

International businesses were Monday halting operations in the North African country as anti-government unrest that has left at least 125 people dead raged into a seventh day.

As Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak struggles to reassert control over protesters, international shippers said they are bracing for delays in the Suez Canal, through which about 8% of global sea-borne trade makes it way.

Earlier a person at the Cairo office of grain shipper Ibramar Holding Group said the disruptions hadn't yet interrupted their freight lines. "We are seeing no problems at the ports," the person said. "Loading and charging operations are going well without any delays."

Shippers have been warning about possible delays as support services--bunkering, piloting and logistics--are threatened by the wide-spread unrest. A curfew has kept workers across the country from venturing from home, and office hours have been sporadic.

At 1307 GMT, European milling wheat futures were down EUR0.50 at EUR265.50 a metric ton on the March contract as nervous dealers assessed the impact the demonstrations could have on shipping lines.

"This kind of turmoil isn't very positive for the business," said a wheat trader. "People are worried this will bring trouble to current contracts."

-By Caroline Henshaw, Dow Jones Newswires; 4420-7842-9478; caroline.henshaw@dowjones.com

(Shereen El Gazzar and Jans Hansegard contributed to this report.)

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 31, 2011 08:35 ET (13:35 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2011 Dow Jones Company, Inc.

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