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Arab maritime relations take off
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 23 - 04 - 2014

The First Arab Maritime Forum, organised by the Arab League and the logistics company Arab Economic Lighthouse, will take place in Dubai from 27 to 29 May with a view to increasing inter-Arab maritime trade and developing Arab shipping.
According to Abdul Aziz Bin Othaimeen, coordinator of the Forum, it aims at creating Arab maritime cooperation that could boost inter-Arab trade, which currently stands at just 12 per cent of total Arab trade, to 30 or 35 per cent of that total.
All Arab countries will benefit from taking part in the Forum, depending on the size of the market and the return on investment, he said.
The Forum will also help provide Arab countries with better information about obtaining finance or going into partnerships, leading to the creation of an Arab maritime line. “It is important to establish an Arab maritime line that can link the Arab countries together and also provide significant logistical channels for world maritime trade,” Bin Othaimeen said.
“We also aim to increase the Arab share of the maritime transport market, estimated at $7 billion, to 20 to 25 per cent instead of the six per cent now,” he added.
The Forum will look at ways to finance the intended Arab maritime line. “We want to attract investors, including the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and various other Arab funds. The IDB will be represented at the Forum's meeting, and this will help keep us on the right course,” he said.
The possibility of funding these projects either in partnership with other countries or through joint ventures or with the involvement of international corporations will be discussed during the Forum.
“We want to inform Arab countries of how best to invest and develop their resources. Updated financial data will be provided, together with briefings on potential projects. There will be access to finance from the IDB and other funds. We hope that by next year we will have four or five projects underway, in which various countries can join as partners,” Bin Othaimeen said.
Projects have been pouring in from around the region, he added.
The Arab Federation for Maritime Transporters has submitted a preliminary feasibility study to establish a maritime line company for container shipping, as well as a study on maritime links among various Arab countries.
From Egypt, projects have been proposed to the Forum by the Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport (AASTMT), and the Arab Sea Ports Federation (ASPF).
They include a preliminary feasibility study to establish a project to exchange grain and foodstuffs, a project for logistical centres and dry bulk, a project to equip Port Tawfik with an extra passenger and freight terminal, and a regular maritime service linking Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
The AASTMT has proposed three preliminary feasibility studies for different projects, such as to create an Arab company for logistical services and logistics centre.
Tunisia has suggested a project to create a port in Nefeda, a project for logistical services in Rades, and a study to identify a strategic investor for Girgis.
Oman has submitted a study on maritime training and ship maintenance, while Libya has proposed several projects for operating and equipping the container station in the free-zone port in Misrata, in addition to expanding the port's facilities or building a new port in the free zone.
Morocco has proposed the expansion of the infrastructure of the Mohamedia Port and the establishment of ship-building and maintenance facilities in the eastern zone of the Casablanca harbour.

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