Since June 2017, the UAE (together with KSA , Bahrain and Egypt) has instituted restrictions on transport to and from Qatar, including on vessels calling at Qatar. However, on 12 February 2019, Abu Dhabi Ports issued an updated CHM Direction in relation to the implementation of restrictions against Qatar.
The restrictions, implemented by way of circulars from port authorities or harbour masters, have included prohibitions on all Qatari flagged vessels, vessels going to / arriving from Qatar, irrespective of flag, and vessels having cargo destined for or coming from Qatar, including transiting cargo.
The updated Chief Harbour Master (CHM) Direction CHM Direction No 02/2019 cancelled the previous CHM Direction No 03/2017 and clarified that only the following restrictions would now apply:
- Qatari owned or flagged vessels cannot call at Abu Dhabi ports;
- UAE owned or flagged vessels cannot call at Qatari Ports.
DP World has issued a similar circular cancelling their previous circular (no DPW/222/2017) and purporting to only restrict Qatari owned or flagged vessels from calling at DP World ports.
Effectively, the circulars intimate that the restrictions have been slightly eased by allowing third party owned and flagged vessels to carry cargo directly to or from Qatar.
However, there is still some confusion. The UAE Federal Transport Authority issued a statement on Thursday 21 February stating that the embargo between Qatar and the UAE remains unchanged and that a clarification would be issued to the ports.
It is not clear whether Abu Dhabi Port Authority or DP World will issue further circulars to change their position, or indeed 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.