Port circulars from Abu Dhabi Port Authority and DP World appeared to ease the restrictions on maritime trade with Qatar, but the country’s Federal Transport Authority insists the announcements have been “misinterpreted”.
The initial port restrictions came into force when the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt decided to suspend land, air and sea transport links with Qatar in 2017. They have included restrictions on all Qatar-flagged vessels, vessels travelling to or arriving from Qatar, as well as vessels loaded with cargo destined for or coming from the country.
On February 12, Abu Dhabi Ports’ circular outlined an updated Chief Harbour Master (CHM) direction, which cancelled the previous CHM Direction No 03/2017 and clarified what restrictions will now apply; Qatari-owned or flagged vessels still cannot call at Abu Dhabi, and UAE-owned or flagged vessels cannot call at Qatari ports.
A similar circular was issued by DP World, which operates Jebel Ali port.
International law firm Clyde & Co explained: “Effectively, the circulars suggest that the restrictions have been slightly eased by allowing third-party owned and flagged vessels to carry cargo directly to or from Qatar.”
However, the UAE’s Federal Transport Authority said the port circular was “misinterpreted” and that a clarification will be issued to ports, according to media reports. The Federal Transport Authority reportedly added that the embargo on Qatar stands and only it has jurisdiction over the ports.
It is not clear whether Abu Dhabi Port Authority or DP World will issue further circulars to change their position, or whether other ports will follow suit by easing the restrictions slightly.
“In the meantime it would be prudent for owners and charterers to stay in close contact with agents regarding the clearance of vessels into the UAE that might be intending to call at Qatari ports immediately before or after the UAE,” added Clyde & Co.