The Hamad Port offers opportunities to create cargo movement towards the upper Gulf, and the generally upward global trade, along with expansion in the regional economies, will keep Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) ports busy, according to a top official of QTerminals.

"Hamad Port’s strategic geographical location offers opportunities to create cargo movement towards the upper Gulf, supporting countries such as Kuwait and Iraq, and south towards Oman," QTerminals chief executive Neville Bissett told Gulf Times in an interview.

QTerminals is a joint venture between Qatar Ports Management Company (Mwani) and Milaha to manage the Hamad Port, which is set to become a global maritime hub.

The proposed maritime strategy of Qatar comes in the wake of an economic and political blockade imposed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt since June this year. Ever since Doha has steadfastly established maritime lines with Oman, Turkey and India, and is looking towards other ports.

The new routes include additional services from China, the Far East and Bangladesh, as well as enhancement of services from established routes including India, Pakistan, Oman, and the Mediterranean.

More than 16% of the world’s container traffic flows between Europe and Asia, allowing the GCC ports to capitalise on the thriving global shipping business, a study by A T Kearney said, adding demand for international trade coupled with the existing global ports network is another factor in the Gulf’s marine transport boom.

Since its opening, Hamad Port has attracted significant interest from mainline operators and the world’s largest shipping companies, which are seeking to enter and grow in the Qatari and regional markets, according to Bissett.

The transition from Doha Port to Hamad Port has led to an increase in containerised and general cargo trade into and through Qatar due to the expanded facilities, higher productivity, and efficient use of capacity in the port, he said.

QTerminals' current operations in Hamad Port include a container terminal with a capacity of 2mn TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) and general cargo, roll-on roll-off and livestock terminals with a capacity of 1.7mn tonnes and 500,000 vehicles annually.

According to the Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics data, Hamad Port harboured 178 vessels in October, which showed a 20% growth year-on-year.

There are two main types of ports in the Gulf region, Bissett said - feeder ports, which handle local cargo, and hub ports, which handle local, regional and international cargo.

He said world trade is cyclical, but has shown a generally upward trend since 2008.

"This, along with growth in the regional economies means that there is sufficient business to keep Gulf ports busy. However, if regional ports rush to expand capacity, then in the medium to long term, overcapacity pressure is bound to occur," Bisset said.

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