Container lines are refusing to accept any cargo bookings to and from Qatar after the Persian Gulf state plunged into a diplomatic row with some of its Arab neighbors that have shut down land, sea, and air ties to the country. The six Arab countries on June 5 accused Qatar of supporting terrorism and broke off diplomatic relations.
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain severed relations with Qatar and closed their airspace to commercial flights on Monday, in the worst split between powerful Arab states in decades. Ports have also been directly affected, which has disrupted trade in commodities from crude oil to metals and food.
Carriers received no advance warning and are now scrambling to find ways to mitigate the impact of a complete break in transport ties between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Egypt, and the Maldives.
Maersk Line notified customers of the impossibility of carrying cargo between Qatar and the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt, including transshipment, in connection with the sanctions imposed by Arab countries against the emirate. The carrier has completely suspended the booking of traffic since June 6 and expects to offer alternative shipping routes within a few days.
“In compliance with the above guidelines we are ceasing cargo acceptance between Qatar and the above countries with immediate effect,” Maersk Line said in a customer advisory. “We have temporarily closed bookings for cargo from rest of the world that transship over Jebel Ali to and from Qatar. We are working on alternative solutions to ensure movement of your cargo in compliance with above guidelines.”
A Maersk Line spokesman said on Tuesday: “We have confirmation that we will not be able to move Qatar cargo in and out of Jebel Ali.” “We expect disruptions to our Qatar services. The situation is very fluid,” the spokesman said, adding that Maersk would notify customers about alternative options as soon as possible.
The spokesman said the company, which is the world’s biggest container shipping line, was looking at other routes such as Oman.
Shipping lines normally transship cargoes from the United Arab Emirates port of Jebel Ali to Qatar, which relies heavily on imports by sea and land.
Larger container ships are unable to dock at ports in Qatar due in part to shallow waters so shipping lines use feeder services, which transport container boxes from the larger port of Jebel Ali in the United Arab Emirates.
Food imports have been affected as Saudi Arabia closed its land border with Qatar, stranding thousands of trucks carrying supplies.
Trade sources said the UAE and Saudi Arabia have already cut exports of white sugar to Qatar. Consumption is traditionally higher during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which is currently being observed.