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Web Alert: Qatar diplomatic crisis - a shipping context

08 June 2017

At the beginning of this week, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, along with Egypt and several other countries, announced that they were severing diplomatic ties with fellow Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) country Qatar, accusing it of failing to stand against terrorist groups and activities, charges which are wholly rejected by Qatar.

As well as ejecting Qatari diplomats, these countries are also prohibiting all land, sea and air traffic with Qatar, including closing their air space to Qatar Airways.

As tensions mount in the region, this situation has the potential to impact upon any member with ships trading between Qatar and GCC countries, as well as any members operating Qatari flagged ships.

Following discussions with the club correspondents in the region, we summarise below the current situation:

Egypt
Following meetings with port authorities, our correspondent has reported that:

  1. All ships transiting the Suez Canal will be permitted to transit irrespective of their flag.
  2. Ships coming from Qatar bearing foreign flags will be permitted to continue cargo operations in Egyptian ports.
  3. Ships bearing the flag of Qatar will be prohibited from entering any Egyptian ports, unless permission is obtained from the Ministry of Defense.

UAE
The Port of Fujairah has issued a Notice to Mariners (No. 224) which bans, until further notice, ships flying the flag of Qatar or those which are arriving from or departing to Qatari ports. Sources also indicate that similar prohibitions are operating at Jebel Ali and will likely apply to other UAE ports.

Saudi Arabia
The Saudi Port Authority has now indicated that ships flying the flag of Qatar will be banned as well as ships owned and operated by Qatari nationals. Qatari cargoes will also be refused permission to discharge.

Bahrain
The Ministry of Transport of the Kingdom of Bahrain has issued a notice that ports and territorial waters will be closed to marine navigation for any ships transiting to or from Qatar.

Qatar
Our correspondent reports that at present all ports continue to operate routinely and there has been no official announcement from Qatar officials implementing any retaliatory sanctions or obstructions.

Container lines which run a regular service calling at Gulf ports, including Doha, are likely to be most severely impacted. Containers which originated from or are destined to Doha, will likely be disrupted until a logistical solution can be found.

Members might also be impacted if they intend to bunker in any of the affected ports or countries before or after calls at Qatar.

The particular conditions at the countries and ports impacted are subject to rapid change without notice whilst this situation develops. Any members currently committed to fixtures involving calls at Qatar would be advised to seek local advice from their agents and the club’s correspondents to confirm the applicable restrictions.

For further details and guidance with regard to the above, our members can contact their usual club contact, Matthew de Plater or the cargo team.