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Political instability threatens Egyptian waterway

January 31 - Egypt's president Mohamed Morsi has declared a state of emergency in three Suez Canal cities, as rioting that has left dozens dead spills into a fourth day.

The Egyptian government has declared a 30-day state of emergency and a curfew has been imposed from 21:00 to 06:00 over the period, in a bid to quell the violence that has spilled into Port Said, Port Suez and Port Ismailia.

According to leading maritime services provider Inchcape Shipping Services (ISS), most operations are continuing at the three ports, and canal convoys have not been interrupted by the ongoing political disturbances.

The Egyptian Army has been deployed to ensure all vessels and barges can safely negotiate the waterway; it has also taken control of the Suez Canal building.

However, ISS noted that ISS Egypt has suspended all husbandry services at all Egyptian ports, including crew changes and transfers. ISS Egypt also recommends for the safety of all personnel that any embarking/disembarking be postponed until the situation settles.

Reports in the international media paint a grim picture of the situation, with general Abdel Fattah al-Sisi - Egypt's military chief - commenting that political strife and street violence are pushing the government towards collapse.

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