Over the past week, various reports from news outlets and other sources have suggested that some of the restrictions on the movements of goods between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar imposed by the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt (Boycotting States) in June 2017 as part of the boycott on Qatar have been partially lifted.
This followed a revised Direction issued by the Abu Dhabi Ports earlier in February 2019 and an almost identical Circular issued by DP World suggesting that restrictions would only apply to prohibit Qatari owned or flagged vessels from calling at Abu Dhabi ports and DP World ports, and to prohibit UAE owned or flagged vessels from calling at Qatari ports. This was interpreted by some commentators as a change in policy, effectively allowing cargo to be moved directly to or from Qatar on vessels owned or flagged by countries not participating in the boycott.

However, in a statement issued on 21 February 2019, the UAE Federal Transport Authority (FTA) refuted the suggestion of a partial easing of the Qatar boycott and confirmed that there is no change in its policy regarding access to Qatar via UAE ports and border crossings. The FTA clarified that the news reports regarding exports and imports to and from Qatar are “inaccurate and misconstrued”. In addition, we understand from the UAE Federal Customs Authority that there has been no recent development in relation to the Qatar boycott. Similarly, the Qatar Ports Management Company (Mwani Qatar) has confirmed that there has been no change in policy from the Qatar perspective.

In light of these statements and until further information becomes available or the situation is further clarified by the FTA or the customs authorities in the UAE, parties should continue to operate on the basis that there has been no relief or relaxation of the boycott whether on the part of the UAE or Qatar.

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