0713 GMT January 18, 2020
The top local maritime official in the Iranian port of Bushehr said that a large vessel named Grand Ferry will start sailing from the port to Qatar’s Hamad port today, Press TV reported.
Siavash 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 air transport, it is expected that the Grand Ferry ... would 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 the northern and southern tips of the Persian Gulf.