(Corrects last paragraph of Sept. 28 story to show Sheikh Al Sharqi is not owner of Fujairah National Group)
By Jonathan Saul
LONDON, Sept 28 (Reuters) - Maritime services company Fujairah National Shipping (FNS) is stepping up investments in the emirate, aiming to benefit from expanding Gulf shipping trade despite tensions in the region and the diplomatic crisis with Qatar, its chief executive said.
Fujairah, on the United Arab Emirates’ east coast, is the country’s only multi-purpose port outside the Strait of Hormuz, giving it direct access to the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean.
Fujairah’s shipping trade continued to exceed the port’s capacity and FNS, a unit of conglomerate Fujairah National Group, had made a “multi-million dollar” investment to take advantage of the planned expansion of the port, CEO Sanjeev Sarin said, declining to provide details.
Sarin said the company had acquired ships - including bunker barges - and oil storage facilities in Fujairah as well as looking into acquiring land in the area of the port under development that would create dry docking facilities.
He said between 100 and 130 ships were at anchor every day in and around Fujairah’s waters and that number was expected to rise, putting more pressure on servicing those vessels.
“The number of bunker barges has reached saturation point ... because the location can’t handle it,” Sarin told Reuters in a telephone interview.
“We believe there will be further opportunities that will come our way with the expansion of the port and the market opening up.”
In June, Abu Dhabi Ports said it had signed a 35-year concession to develop and manage the Port of Fujairah.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt shook the region in June by cutting political and trade ties with Qatar, imposing an embargo on shipping with the small Gulf state.
“We believe that this embargo is not here to stay,” Sarin said. “We remain optimistic that the issues - whatever they are - will get resolved very, very soon and hopefully from a commerce perspective, we will be able to move on and do our business as was the case earlier.”
Potential trade with Iran was separately being held up due to wariness among international banks to provide finance, U.S. sanctions and the overall complexity of doing business, he added.
“We believe strongly that if Iran as a market opens up, it will help trade in this whole region phenomenally and we are looking forward for that to happen sooner rather than later.”
Sheikh Sultan Bin Saleh Al Sharqi, a member of the emirate’s ruling family and separately chairman of Fujairah’s port, is vice chairman of Fujairah National Group. (Editing by Dale Hudson)