Hundreds of containers on their way to Qatar from Oman

A Qatari food company owner said shipments began arriving on Sunday from Oman, and that about 12 vessels were headed to Qatar from Sohar and Salalah.

"There are around 300 containers of fresh and frozen food coming. Some have arrived and the others are on their way," Ahmed al-Khalaf said.

He said containers at Jebel Ali port of the United Arab Emirates were still stuck, but that others, including from Europe, were being diverted to Oman's ports.

The world's number 1 container line, Maersk of Denmark, said on Monday it would accept new bookings for container shipments to Qatar from Oman.

Swiss-based MSC, the world's number 2 line, said it would deploy a new dedicated shipping service to Qatar from Salalah.

Last week, Qatar Ports Management launched a new direct service linking Hamad port in the Qatari capital with Sohar Port in the Sultanate of Oman.

At a press conference held at Hamad Port, Qatar Ports Management said: "In light of the recent developments in the region, Mwani Qatar (Qatar Ports Management) and its partners have ensured the business continuity of its ports and shipping operations in and out of Qatar to mitigate the impact of any action that would affect the imports and exports to and from the country."

The service will operate three times a week and journey's will take up to one and a half days.

In an advisory released Sunday, the UAE’s transport authority suggested that the Emirates no longer bars non-Qatari vessels that are engaged in Qatari trade from entering UAE ports – an important development in the ongoing dispute, as the Emirates’ Port of Fujairah is home to the region’s main bunkering facility.

“This notice differs in substance to notices which have been issued by some of the ports within the UAE during the course of the last week,” commented law firm Ince & Co. in a client advisory. “Of particular relevance is the fact that there is no reference to vessels not being given port clearance if the last port of call or next port of call is Qatar, This could mean that vessels which have loaded in Qatar and wish to bunker in Fujairah may be able to do so.”

The announcement still forbids UAE ports from handling any cargo of Qatari origin, receiving any Qatari-owned or -flagged vessel, or loading any cargo of UAE origin bound for Qatar. The transport authority called on “those concerned to implement strictly .”

Oman emerges as a transshipment alternative

The Qatar Ports Management Company announced Sunday that it has initiated two new container services between the Omani ports of Sohar and Salalah and Hamad Port, Qatar. The UAE’s shipping ban has stranded thousands of Qatari containers in the Emirates, as most normal transshipment services to and from Hamad are routed through Jebel Ali and Khalifa Port. The new substitute feeder routes from Oman will each run three times a week. Maersk Lines, Evergreen, OOCL and COSCO had all announced service suspensions to Qatar and stopped accepting shipments bound for Hamad Port.

With transshipments routed through Oman, Maersk has since resumed all normal operations; in a statement Monday, number two carrier MSC proudly noted that it never stopped accepting consignments, unlike competitors.

The new feeder services will ease pressure on Qatar’s supplies of fresh and frozen food, which the tiny nation of three million obtains through imports. Iran and Turkey have been flying provisions into Doha as an emergency measure, but with a sea route reopened, at least 300 containers of food supplies are now on their way, trader Ahmed al-Khalaf told Reuters.