Middle East’s Biggest Ports Shun Qatar as Saudis Tighten Isolation

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June 6, 2017

DP World Jebel Ali. Photo courtesy DP World

By Anthony DiPaola and Deena Kamel Yousef (Bloomberg) — The biggest Middle East oil and container ports banned all vessels sailing to and from Qatar from using their facilities amid a diplomatic crisis gripping the world’s main energy-exporting region.

Saudi Arabian and Bahraini authorities closed off all of their ports to Qatari-flagged vessels or ships traveling to or coming from the Persian Gulf state, according to a notice posted on the website of Inchcape Shipping Services Tuesday. Container and oil terminals in the United Arab Emirates also closed off traffic to any ships touching Qatar, according to separate statements from three port operators.

The three Persian Gulf countries and Egypt severed ties with Qatar Monday citing its support for regional rival Iran and for extremist groups. The dispute pits two of OPEC’s largest oil producers — Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. — against the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas and further disrupts stability in the region. The shipping restrictions risk hurting shipments of oil and refined products from the world’s biggest energy exporting region.

Saudi Arabia’s eastern coast is home to the port of Ras Tanura, which state-owned Saudi Arabian Oil Co. says is the biggest crude terminal in the world. Jebel Ali port, the region’s biggest container terminal, will be restricted from Tuesday until further notice, its operator Dubai’s DP World Ltd. said in an emailed statement. In the U.A.E., DP World operates Jebel Ali along with Dubai’s Mina Rashid and Mina Al Hamriya ports, according to its website.

Government-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. closed its crude and refined-product ports to any vessels to or from Qatar, according to a notice obtained by Bloomberg News. The port at Fujairah, a main oil transit and refined product hub, said Monday it was closed to Qatar-linked traffic.

“It’s more of a logistical issue that you can get around,” Jonathan Lee, chief executive officer of shipping pool operator Tankers International, said of the inability of Qatari ships to fill their tanks at Fujairah. “It’s not the end of the world.”

Shipping at Egyptian ports was operating normally as of Tuesday, according to Inchcape. The company also said the Suez Canal Authority has advised that there aren’t restrictions on vessels in the waterway since it is an international route.

© 2017 Bloomberg L.P

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