Tuesday, 03 March 2009 ]
Port part of strategic plan to secure Strait of Hormuz
UAE builds port to counter Iran threats
DUBAI (Hayyan Nayouf)
The United Arab Emirates has begun implementing a strategic plan to build a new port for exporting crude oil in order to counter Iranian threats to hinder marine traffic by closing the Strait of Hormuz.
The emirates of Abu Dhabi and Fujairah started in January constructing a port through which 70 percent of Abu Dhabi's crude oil will be exported.
The step came in the wake of Iranian threats to close the vital strait a move that could deal a massive blow to the oil market since 40 percent of the world's oil is shipped by sea and 20 percent of all oil shipments pass through the strategic passage. The seven-kilometer (three mile) waterway is the only marine entrance to the Gulf.
Once completed, the port will transport up to 1.8 million barrels of crude oil daily, Moussa Mourad, the manager of the Port of Fujairah told the UAE’s Emirates Business 24/7 newspaper.
"The port will be equipped to receive gigantic oil tankers and crude oil will reach Fujairah through a pipeline and will be stored in warehouses near the port," he said.
After Iran's repeated threats to seal off the Strait of Hormuz, the UAE had to look for an alternative, said Abdul-Aziz bin Othman, director of the Gulf Research Center.
"It was either through Oman from the Saudi al-Shaiba oil field or through Fujairah, and the latter was easier," he told AlArabiya.net.
The idea of the project was brought up years ago, said researcher Bin Saqr who stressed that the new port has many benefits.
"It will save a day and half which is the time it takes for a tanker to enter and exit the Strait of Hormuz to then go to Jebel Ali and Abu Dhabi," he told AlArabiya.net.
"It will also reduce the insurance cost, and if the port expands, Saudi Arabia and Iraq and other Gulf countries can also use this route."
The closure of the Strait of Hormuz will have grave consequences for Iran, Riad Kahwaji, founder and director of Institute for Near East & Gulf Military Analysis (INEGMA) told AlArabiya.net.
"Iran will be bringing a disaster upon itself," he said. "This could place Iran in a military confrontation with the entire world since all countries have an interest in the Gulf region."
Kahwaji added that the U.S. could possibly engage in a war against Iran and would destroy anything that blocks the marine traffic in this region.
"The U.S. could occupy the Iranian islands that might be in the way and could eventually occupy the entire Strait of Hormuz."
Not taken seriously
However Dr. Mashallah Shams al-Waizeen, from the Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies, said from Tehran that no one in Iran takes the threats of a military strike seriously.
"Both the U.S. and Israel realize that an open war against Iran will trigger the unification of problem zones in the region from Gaza to Afghanistan," he told AlArabiya.net. "This is a crisis that U.S. cannot handle."
Waizeen stressed that his country would close the Strait of Hormuz and use all the power it has in case of an attack.
When asked why Iran assigned the elite Revolutionary Guards to handle the surveillance of the Gulf, Waizeen said that the Guards are similar to the rapid deployment force U.S. President Jimmy Carter formed during the 1979 hostage crisis at the American Embassy in Tehran.
"The most important reason is delivering a message to both the U.S. and Israel that they will be committing a grave mistake if they put the Guards on the list of terrorist organizations," Waizeen said. "The Guards are government forces protecting the territorial waters of Iran."