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Qatar launches new 'blockade-busting' maritimes routes

Hamad Port in Qatar is playing a key role in maintaining shipping links [AFP]

Date of publication: 9 August, 2017

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Qatar will launch new direct maritime routes with Malaysia, Pakistan and Taiwan in September in a move that will further enable Doha to circumvent a blockade by its neighbours

Qatar will launch three new direct maritime routes with Malaysia, Pakistan and Taiwan in September in a move that will further enable Doha to circumvent a sea, air and land blockade by its neighbours, the country's minister of transport said on Monday.

The new shipping routes will operate through Doha's flagship Hamad port, which Minister Jassim bin Saif Al Sulaiti said is currently operating at 70 percent capacity. 

The minister was speaking at a ceremony for the signing of an MoU between Qatar Chemical and Petrochemical Marketing and Distribution Company (Muntajat), the marketing branch of Qatar Petroleum, and the Qatar Ports Management Company (Mwani Qatar) to benefit from Hamad Port services. 

Under the agreement, Muntajat will export via Hamad Port to its final destinations around the world, while Mwani Qatar will be in charge of providing the shipping and unloading services for Muntajat containers from Hamad Port quays.

The agreement will give Muntajat access to directly ship to its 2,000 clients in more than 135 countries. The agreement will launch direct shipping from Hamad Port to Shanghai in China, Mundra and Nhava Sheva ports in India, Sahar and Salalah ports in Oman, and Derince port in Turkey.

The announcement comes on the same day Milaha, a Qatari shipping company, said it has launched independent storage and logistics services in Oman's Sahar port, likely to circumvent the Jebel Ali hub in the UAE, one of the countries blockading Qatar. 

In June, Qatar's Hamad Port was linked directly to Mundra and Nhava Sheva ports in India, in a move seen as defying the sea blockade of the country.

Qatar has been looking to break the blockade imposed on it by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, blocking several of Qatar's usual land and maritime freight routes. Flights have also been affected by its Gulf neighbours refusing to let Qatar carriers use their airspace.

Doha has established direct shipping routes with Oman and has sought alternative suppliers of foodstuffs and goods from nations such as Turkey and Iran.

The Qatari authorities have also moved to reassure citizens and residents that they can weather the blockade without significant damage to the economy and daily life. 

The blockade has been criticised by international human rights groups for its potential effect on ordinary citizens.

The three countries and their allies beyond the Gulf region severed ties with Doha without warning in early june. 

They ostensibly claim Qatar supports "terrorist groups" - a charge Doha vehemently denies, later issuing a list of demands including the shuttering of Al Jazeera.

Qatar has struck a defiant tone, vowing not to bargain over "sovereign matters". 

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