UpdateTens of thousands of Egyptians continue protests for reform

31 January 2011 16:42  [Source: ICIS news]

(releads and updates throughout)

By Franco Capaldo

Anti-government protests in EgyptLONDON (ICIS)--Tens of thousands of demonstrators have amassed at Tahrir Square in central Egypt as protests, calling for President Hosni Mubarak to step down, continued for a seventh day.

In a bid to end the unrest, Mubarak announced a new cabinet and on Monday removed Interior Minister Habib al-Adly, who was widely disliked. Mubarak had already appointed a new vice president and prime minister over the weekend.

The anti-government riots have destabilised the Middle East markets, with shares plunging in many countries in the region. Shares in Asian petrochemical companies mostly fell on Monday, in line with regional bourses, as ongoing riots in Egypt unnerved investors.

In addition, a number of chemical plants in Egypt have been forced to shut down and stop operations because of difficulties resulting from the national demonstrations.

TCI Sanmar shut down its 200,000 tonne/year caustic soda plant at South Port Said on 29 January after riots made it impossible to operate, while Norway-based coatings producer Jotun closed its paint production plant in Ismailia on Sunday for a week over fears for its staff's safety.

Meanwhile, Egyptian fertilizer producer Abu Qir cancelled a sales tender for a cargo of urea ammonium nitrate (UAN) which was scheduled to close on Monday. However, sources said nitrogen production had been so far unaffected.

The 192km Suez Canal has been operating as usual during the protests, with 45-50 ships passing through each day, a canal official told Reuters.

Both banks of the canal were being guarded by the Egyptian army on Monday, allowing secure vessel transit, a Cairo-based shipping agent said. “Everything is normal,” said a representative of shipping and logistics firm GAC Egypt’s Suez transit department.

He said the army was also controlling Egypt’s main ports. Stevedoring operations were unaffected, but GAC was recommending that vessels suspend crew changes and the delivery of spare parts to prevent delays.

Canada’s Methanex, which was expecting to start shipping methanol from its new 1.3m tonne/year EMethanex joint venture plant in Damietta, Egypt, before the end of the first quarter, said it had seen no setbacks so far, adding that it had no realistic expectations of there being any impact.

Violence between government forces and protesters has left at least 125 people dead since the beginning of rallies on 25 January.

Internet services throughout the country have been interrupted since Friday, but mobile telephone communications have been restored after a 30-hour suspension. A curfew is in effect from 15:00 to 08:00 local time.

It was reported that demonstrators would be stepping up action with calls for a general strike and a huge march on Cairo on Tuesday.

($1 = €0.74)

Additional reporting by Mark Victory, Mike Nash, Ross Yeo and James Mills

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By: Franco Capaldo
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