Plans to introduce direct shipping lines to N Africa

 01 Nov 2017 - 1:07

Plans to introduce direct shipping lines to N Africa
Ali Hasan Al Khalaf, Chairman of Qatar Consumer Complexes.

By Mohammad Shoeb / The Peninsula

Qatar is considering to start direct shipping lines from the newly-opened Hamad Port to North Africa region, connecting several countries, including Tunisia, Morocco and other Arab states in the region to boost bilateral trade.
The idea of introducing direct marine link with the region will not only be limited to expanding trade volume but also to use the region as a gateway to Europe and other countries to exporting and re-exporting goods from the multi-billion dollar Hamad Port and the upcoming food processing complex being developed adjacent to the iconic port, according to some prominent Qatari businessmen.

“New shipping lines are expected to be started from the Hamad Port to North Africa region, including Tunisia. As Qatar is working to achieve food security by developing a hub at Hamad Port, we are working to establish strategic partnership with many North African and European countries to meet their demands for food grains and other goods,” the Vice-Chairman of Qatar Chamber, Mohammed bin Ahmed bin Towar Al Kuwari told The Peninsula.

Al Kuwari, also a leading businessman, added: “Tunisia is a gateway to Europe and Africa. It’s an Arab country which has great potential to expand economic cooperation with Qatar… We are discussing with Russia, India, Pakistan, Australia and many other countries to source wheat, rice and other food grains to achieve food security as well as re-exporting the same to other countries in the region and beyond. And Tunisia can be one of the key partners in this regard.”

He said that the world-class Hamad Port has opened at the right time, which is destined to change the landscape of regional sea transport sector.

Analysts say that Qatar and Tunisia are geographically situated at strategic locations between Europe and Asia. And both the countries can complement each other in terms of the exchange of goods and services, including agricultural products, labour force and management.

Yet another leading Qatari businessman, Ali Hasan Al Khalaf, echoing similar views, said: “Tunisia is an Arab country with huge potential to add value to our economy, but we still do not have direct connection through sea route to expand the trade of goods between Qatar and Tunisia. The absence of direct shipping line is a major obstacle to enhancing bilateral trade.”

Al Khalaf, the Chairman of Qatar Consumer Complexes (QCC), a leading company with a wide range of business interests, including a chain of retail outlets, added: “We have very strong and well established shipping lines with many Asian countries where we export our oil, gas, chemicals, and petrochemical products. On similarly lines, we need to develop and upgrade shipping lines for traditionally traded items, especially with India, Pakistan, Iran and many other countries in the North African and other parts of the world.”

He noted that since Qatar was traditionally importing most of the goods through neighbouring countries, “we did not pay much heed” to developed or upgrade a well established logistics industry and independent sea transport links for commercial trade, but with the opening of the huge Hamad Port things are changing fast. Asked about the reported delays in custom clearance at local ports, especially for non-food items, he added that these are temporary problems due to unprecedented rise in the volume of goods coming from the sea routes, which is expected to be solved very soon.
“Since most of the goods are coming via sea routes (as the only land route is blocked by Saudi Arabia), the work load has increased by manifold. The authorities concern are trying their level best to improve the situation.”

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