Freight forwarders and shippers needing to ship cargo to and from Qatar are faced with increasingly limited options as a result of the Saudi Arabia-led moves to block transport, trading and diplomatic links with Doha.
Several shipping lines have cancelled their services to and from Qatar and begun seeking new solutions for customers after the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Monday extended a ban on vessels entering its ports under the Qatari flag to include vessels destined for or arriving from Qatar.
Maersk Line confirmed to Lloyd’s Loading List that the decisions on 5 June by the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain - followed by Yemen on 6 June - to cut diplomatic ties with Qatar had impacted Maersk Line and its services, stressing that DP World Jebel Ali and Abu Dhabi Terminals would no longer accept cargo to and from Qatar ports, including transhipment cargo. “Qatari services are impacted as we have served Qatar through a feeder connection in and out of Jebel Ali,” a spokesman said. “We are currently working on alternative solutions.”
In an update note to customers on 5 June, Maersk Line said: “In compliance with the above guidelines, we are ceasing cargo acceptance between Qatar and the above countries with immediate effect.” And on 6 June Maersk Line said it had also temporarily closed bookings for cargo from the rest of the world that tranship over Jebel Ali to or from Qatar. It said it was working on alternative solutions to ensure the movement of customers’ cargo in compliance with the new guidelines.
OOCL said bookings to and from Qatar were suspended until further notice, while forwarders have reported similar notices from several other shipping lines.
Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have announced similar bans, although Egypt’s Suez Canal transits have not been affected and all Qatar-flagged vessels are free to transit, Lloyd’s List reports. A local representative of a ship management company in Fujairah said: “Container lines that run a regular service calling at Gulf ports including Doha are likely to be most severely impacted by any bans relating to Qatar. Containers that originated from or are destined for Doha will likely be disrupted until a logistics solution can be found.”
Industry sources suggested that the ports of Salalah and Sohar in Oman could for the time being replace Jebel Ali as the main hub for container traffic to and from Qatar while the diplomatic dispute continues between Qatar and the Saudi-led coalition.