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Seventeen-strong Qatari LNG fleet piles up outside Ras Laffan

Blockade also forces traders to divert LNG shipments on the water 

THE blockade of Qatar has resulted in a massive pile-up of the country’s liquefied natural gas fleet at the port of Ras Laffan, the Arabian kingdom’s main petroleum hub, as traders start to divert existing LNG shipments

Earlier this week, the Port of Fujairah banned ships flying the flag of Qatar and those arriving from or departing to Qatari ports.

Fujairah is the world’s second-largest bunkering hub and the restrictions have forced out the entire fleet of LNG carriers owned by Qatar Gas Transport Co, also known as Nakilat, one of the world’s biggest LNG carrier owners.

These ships have had no choice but move to Qatar’s Ras Laffan port and its anchorage.

“Usually there are about three to four LNG carriers waiting at Ras Laffan Anchorage, usually just waiting for a berth, compared to 17 yesterday,” Lloyd’s List Intelligence analyst Mark Renton said. He said the logjam of LNG carriers at Ras Laffan Anchorage is only because they have been banned from using the UAE’s Fujairah Anchorage.

Aside from the LNG carriers, an increasing number of product and crude tankers owned by Qatar Petroleum, plus a range of offshore and support vessels, is also queuing there, creating a logistical nightmare.

The congestion and the lack of bunkering space for Nakilat’s fleet could lead to reduced LNG vessel availability, and owners may find opportunities to increase voyage and spot charter rates.

Nakilat’s fleet of 67 wholly- and jointly-owned LNG and four liquefied petroleum gas carriers comprises the world’s newest and largest gas tankers, including the Q-Max and Q-Flex vessels that are the biggest LNG carriers in the world, according to the company.


Diversionary tactics

The blockade imposed by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Baharin on Qatar has also begun to affect vessel movements, as cargo owners struggle to adjust their shipments to avoid legal issues.

The Panama-flagged Ibra LNG owned by Oman Shipping was running around in circles off Fujairah port all week, LLI vessel tracking showed, before deciding to head westwards.

The Greece-flagged Maran Gas Amphipolis, which had loaded from the Sabine Pass terminal in the US on May 9, was originally destined for Kuwait's Mina Al-Ahmadi port after passing through the Suez Canal at the end of May.

But latest LLI vessel tracking showed it turned around on June 6 for the port of Jebel Ali in the UAE, where a floating storage and regasification unit is located.

Two more vessels — the Marshall Islands-flagged Al Mafyar and Zarga — have also reportedly been diverted from their previous supply routes for Europe. The reasons for their diversions could not be immediately ascertained.

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