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First shipping service to connect Iran’s Bushehr to Qatar’s Hamed Port

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This photo on the website of Ports and Maritime Organization of Iran shows the Grand Ferry arriving at the Port of Bushehr, in southwest Iran, on June 19, 2019, to accommodate a shipping service between Iran and Qatar.

Iranian authorities say a first shipping service to Qatar is ready to start in the coming days amid efforts to bolster trade ties with the Persian Gulf country which has suffered from a blockade by neighboring Arab states.

The top local maritime official in the Iranian port of Bushehr said on Wednesday that a large vessel named Grand Ferry will start sailing from the port to Qatar’s Hamad Port on August 24.

Siavosh Arjmandzadeh said that the shipping service will provide cargo transportation for pallets and various types of containers, including those meant for refrigerated transport.

“Given the high costs of the air transport, it is expected that the Grand Ferry ... could open a new horizon for trade relations between Iran and Qatar,” said Arjmandzadeh.

Iran has offered a major lifeline to Qatar since the country was sanctioned by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and others over a diplomatic dispute in June 2017. The gas-rich country of 2.7 million people is mostly dependent on imports for most of its food needs.

Arjmandzadeh said that the new shipping service to Qatar could “significantly” increase Iran’s exports to the Arab country while it could open a new chapter in tourism activities.

He said that the Grand Ferry, equipped with 500 beds and 1,200 seats in 250 rooms, would soon accommodate passenger transport between Iran and Qatar.

The launch of the shipping service comes less than a year after delegates from Qatar visited Bushehr to discuss possibilities for more imports and passenger visits from Iran.

Authorities said in October that there was a need for a 200-400 TEU (20-foot equivalent units) freight service between ports of Bushehr and Hamad.

The Grand Ferry, a roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) ship built in western France in 1983, is 144 meters long and 26 meters wide. It has remained docked at the Port of Bushehr since June 19 when it arrived to start preparations for the new service.

The ship is planned to carry out two trips a week between Bushehr and Hamad ports which sit over 400 kilometers apart on northern and southern tips of the Persian Gulf.

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