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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Borys Dackiw is the Head of Compliance practice in the Gulf based in the Firm's Abu Dhabi office. A partner of Baker McKenzie since 1995, Borys regularly advises clients across various industries on their compliance and anti-bribery policies and programs and has participated in whistleblower interviews relating to allegations of bribery and other bribery-related investigations. He also advises on mergers & acquisitions (including privatizations), private equity and general corporate and commercial law.

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Tarek Saad is the Head of the Maritime practice at Baker McKenzie Habib Al Mulla, based in Dubai. He is seasoned in maritime and insurance law, with over 22 years' experience in the Middle East, and more than 10 years in the UAE, and is also involved in the drafting and review of the new UAE Maritime Law. Tarek has extensive experience in general litigation including civil, commercial, real estate, criminal, intellectual property and labor litigation in the UAE.

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Kirsty Cattanach is senior associate in the Maritime practice of Baker McKenzie Habib Al Mulla, based in Dubai. A specialist English law-qualified Maritime lawyer, she has significant experience of shipping, energy construction, (re)insurance and trade matters. She is well-versed in almost all aspects of dry shipping, having dealt with a very broad spread of matters arising under charterparties and bills of lading, and has been increasingly advising on maritime aspects of M&A deals, including questions of charterparty risk, insurance coverage and vessel ownership.

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Reggie Mezu is a Senior Special Counsel in Baker McKenzie Habib Al Mulla, based in Dubai. He has practiced tax for nearly 30 years in the Middle East, Africa and Europe, including in the UAE for 15 years. Reggie regularly advises clients on tax planning, corporate structuring, cross-border transactions, double tax treaties, reform and development of fiscal frameworks, general advice, and most recently, the new value added tax (VAT) regime in the Gulf region.

Author

Laya Aoun-Hani is a senior associate in the Corporate & Commercial practice of Baker McKenzie Habib Al Mulla, based in Dubai. She specialises in corporate and commercial transactions, including joint ventures, distribution agreements, company structuring and restructuring, mergers and acquisitions, employment and all related matters. Laya also has particular experience in all compliance and VAT matters.

Author

Nick Roberts is a senior associate based in the Firm's Doha office and has worked on projects globally, particularly in the Gulf, Africa, Central Asia and Europe. He specializes in major projects and project financing with a particular focus in the energy (including renewables), natural resources, infrastructure and development sectors.

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