Despite Embargo, Hamad Port Adds New Routes
Qatar's minister of transport, Jassin bin Saif al Sulaiti, has announced new shipping routes from Qatar's Hamad port to Pakistan, Malaysia and Taiwan – another means of circumventing Saudi-led trade sanctions on the small Persian Gulf emirate. Hamad port is operating at 70 percent capacity, al Sulaiti said.
The news coincided with the announcement of a new stand-alone transshipment hub for Qatari shipping firm Milaha. Milaha's new hub is in Oman, which has remained neutral in the dispute between Qatar and its neighbors. By relocating its transshipment operations, Milaha will not be vulnerable to the ban on Qatari consignments at Jebel Ali, UAE, which has forbidden carriers from moving Doha-bound containers across its docks. Maersk and others have also begun moving Qatar-bound cargo through Omani ports rather than Jebel Ali.
Qatar and its allies have quickly adapted to the embargo. Qatar's government began stockpiling food several years ago, part of a strategic plan to avoid disruption, and was able to draw on its reserves. Turkey and Iran stepped up food shipments to offset shortages – especially fresh food – and an enterprising Qatari businessmen has even begun bringing dairy cows into the country to reduce its dependence upon imports.
The coalition imposing the embargo – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain – accuses Qatar of supporting terrorist organizations like Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. They have called on Doha to cut its ties to these organizations; to close its satellite news network, Al Jazeera; shutter a Turkish military base; and pay reparations for alleged damages. All five parties to the dispute are American allies, and most are home to large American military bases. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has sought to mediate the dispute by means of shuttle diplomacy, and has dispatched two senior envoys – General Anthony Zinni (USMC, ret'd.) and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Timothy Lenderking – to keep up regular talks with the parties.