In an advisory released Sunday, the UAE’s transport authority suggested that the Emirates no longer bars non-Qatari vessels that are engaged in Qatari trade from entering UAE ports – an important development in the ongoing dispute, as the Emirates’ Port of Fujairah is home to the region’s main bunkering facility.
“This notice differs in substance to notices which have been issued by some of the ports within the UAE during the course of the last week,” commented law firm Ince & Co. in a client advisory. “Of particular relevance is the fact that there is no reference to vessels not being given port clearance if the last port of call or next port of call is Qatar, This could mean that vessels which have loaded in Qatar and wish to bunker in Fujairah may be able to do so.”
The announcement still forbids UAE ports from handling any cargo of Qatari origin, receiving any Qatari-owned or -flagged vessel, or loading any cargo of UAE origin bound for Qatar. The transport authority called on “those concerned to implement strictly [sic].”
Ince & Co. advised clients to prepare for a “period of disruption and uncertainty” regarding shipping to and from Qatar. “It is impossible to confidently predict how the situation will develop, for how long the ‘Qatar ban’ will remain in place and whether any further restrictions will be implemented,” said Rania Tadros, Managing Partner, Ince & Co. Dubai in a statement. “At this time, there are no signs that a wider sanctions regime against Qatar is being contemplated by the GCC states, but we recommend that affected parties monitor the situation closely.
Oman emerges as a transshipment alternative
The Qatar Ports Management Company announced Sunday that it has initiated two new container services between the Omani ports of Sohar and Salalah and Hamad Port, Qatar. The UAE’s shipping ban has stranded thousands of Qatari containers in the Emirates, as most normal transshipment services to and from Hamad are routed through Jebel Ali and Khalifa Port. The new substitute feeder routes from Oman will each run three times a week. Maersk Lines, Evergreen, OOCL and COSCO had all announced service suspensions to Qatar and stopped accepting shipments bound for Hamad Port. With transshipments routed through Oman, Maersk has since resumed all normal operations; in a statement Monday, number two carrier MSC proudly noted that it never stopped accepting consignments, unlike competitors.
The new feeder services will ease pressure on Qatar’s supplies of fresh and frozen food, which the tiny nation of three million obtains through imports. Iran and Turkey have been flying provisions into Doha as an emergency measure, but with a sea route reopened, at least 300 containers of food supplies are now on their way, trader Ahmed al-Khalaf told Reuters.
On Monday, Qatari trade minister Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani said that the blockade has had minimal effect. "We started to import food, milk and other such items from Turkey on the first day of the blockade," he said. "Now we are not talking about the primary need of the consumer, we are now talking about maintaining the lifestyle Qataris and those living here in Qatar hold. All supply chains, either by air or sea are working smoothly – it's business as usual.”