GULF VIEW

 
1- TOURISM BETWEEN SAUDI ARABIA, EGYPT
2-
IRAN, KUWAIT LOOKING FORWARD TO SECURITY TIES
 

June 13 - 19, 2005

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TOURISM BETWEEN SAUDI ARABIA, EGYPT

Egypt has announced relaxed tourist visa requirements for Saudi nationals. The new conditions are part of its efforts to woo more tourists from the region after a sharp drop in tourist traffic was reported between the Kingdom and Western destinations since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.
The move on the part of Cairo comes after other countries including Turkey recently relaxed visa procedures to attract more tourists and businessmen from the Kingdom.

 

 

"The relaxed visa norms will also apply for nationals of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries," said Ahmed Al-Khadim, President of the Cairo-based General Authority for Tourism Promotion.

The concessions granted to visa applicants now include offering tourist visas for nationals at seaports and land entry points. Tourists or expatriates of other nationalities can also obtain multiple entry visas valid for a year within 72 hours of applying.

The new regulation, which will substantially ease the issuance of visas, is a welcome move as more than 309,000 Saudis visited Egypt last year.

Saudi Arabia ranks second in terms of investment in Egypt and it accounts for 40 percent of all Arab investments in that country. Saudi-Egyptian trade exceeds SR3.5 billion annually.

Referring to the facilities offered by Egypt under the new regime, Al-Khadim said that the Gulf tourists can also stay in Egypt for one year on renewable tourist visas and by paying the vehicle fees they can keep their private vehicles there for up to six months.

This will be in addition to private tour operators and travel and tourism companies, who have geared themselves up to serve, more tourists with tailor-made packages this year.

He said that Egypt attracted some 1.5 million Arab tourists including Saudis last year.

According to statistics, out of 1.5 million Arab tourists who visited Egypt last year, 344,000 were from Libya followed by 309,000 Saudis. Of the total tourist inflow last year, 18 to 20 percent were from Arab countries, which is second to the number of European tourists.

Al-Khadim and his entourage are presently on a visit to the Gulf countries including Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain. He will also visit Jordan after wrapping up his visit to the Gulf.

ROBUST LNG BUSINESS

Qatar in view of the robust growth in global liquefied natural gas (LNG) trade would require some 150 tankers to ferry LNG from the region by 2010.

Second Deputy Premier and Minister of Energy and Industry Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah while speaking at first LNG Middle East shipping forum was quoted saying that by the decade-end, some 300 LNG tankers will be in operation worldwide.

Rapid growth of the LNG industry is reflected on the gas-shipping segment as well. In place of 152 vessels in operation and 34 on order in 2003, there were 174 tankers in operation and 113 on order last year.

The energy minister said natural gas trade involving Middle East countries had grown significantly during the last decade mainly due to the projects established in Qatar and Oman and the expansion of the LNG trade between Abu Dhabi and Japan. The trend will continue for sometime with planned expansions of the existing projects and new LNG export projects coming up in Egypt, Yemen and Iran.

Al-Attiyah noted Qatar had helped change the fundamentals of the LNG shipping business by boosting demand to an unprecedented level and introducing technological innovations in an industry known for its conservative approach.

Qatar has also encouraged new entrants to join the "Ship Owners Club," besides significantly contributing to a much-needed reduction in LNG transportation costs.

Reaching out to customers worldwide is easier said than done, al-Attiyah pointed out. "Geographically, we are not close to any of the attractive natural gas markets in the Far East or Atlantic Basin. So in order to deliver LNG across the globe at competitive terms, we had to develop new shipping solutions that are safe, reliable and cost-effective," he said.

He pointed out it takes almost 45 days for a roundtrip between Ras Laffan and the Gulf of Mexico through the Suez Canal. Similarly, a roundtrip to Japan or Korea takes about 30 days.

The LNG industry must make an assessment of the feasibility for introducing large LNG tankers with capacities in excess to 200,000cu m.

It may be mentioned that Qatar had prudently opened the door to reputed ship owners, who were very keen to enter the LNG business and had the financial strength to conduct safe and reliable LNG shipping operations.

The minister also called upon financial institutions to further relax the terms and conditions for the benefit of the industry as a whole.

Qatar, he said, is now taking a lead role in equity participation in the procurement of new vessels. Naqilat, a Qatari shareholding company, has been set up to realize the target.

 

 

The Qatari public had overwhelmingly supported Naqilat IPO enabling it to meet its declared objectives. The offer was the most successful in Qatar so far. The Second Deputy Premier emphasized the need for safety and reliability in LNG transportation. It was of vital importance to the industry that its safety and reliability record of 40 years was kept intact.

Al-Attiyah urged LNG producers, tanker operators and importers to work together with the port authorities and marine regulators concerned for maintaining the highest standards of safety and security.

There should also be a lot of thrust on training professional crew and support staff required for LNG transportation. The industry must address this issue urgently, as experienced hands will be in shortage when the segment grows, he added.

PAKISTAN-QATAR COOPERATION

A joint technical committee comprising experts from the two countries would base all future initiatives between Qatar and Pakistan in the gas sector on the feasibility report.

Second Deputy Premier and Minister of Energy and Industry Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah stated "The report of the committee, set up by the two countries during my visit to Pakistan a couple of months ago will be studied in detail before taking any decision on the issue," al-Attiyah said. Al-Attiyah said while talking to Mir Mohamed Naseer Mengel, Pakistani Minister for State for Petroleum and Natural Resources, who was on a two-day visit to Qatar as part of a delegation led by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf last week.

The decision on gas pipeline between Qatar and Pakistan will be taken only on the basis of the report, al-Attiyah said. The plan is pretty old and the two countries have renewed their interest in view of its increasing importance to both Qatar and Pakistan, he said. The minister, however, said that it is still too early to talk on the subject.

Asked if the Pakistani companies had evinced interest in carrying out oil exploration in Qatar, al-Attiyah said: "It is true that some of Pakistani companies have shown interest. But Qatar Petroleum has set up some standards and each of those companies has to meet the requirements before being involved in the oil exploration.

Pakistani minister express by and large similar sentiments and said Pakistan government is committed to produce best results from the report of the joint committee. "We will consider all options before reaching a decision on the issue," Mengal said. "We had some useful and meaningful discussions with the Qatari officials," he added. Mengal, is a former chief minister of Balochistan. He was also Pakistani's former ambassador to Qatar.

QATAR GAS SEEKING CHINESE MARKET

RasGas will explore the possibilities of entering the Chinese LNG market, observed by Vice-chairman Dr Ibrahim B. Ibrahim.

"We will definitely see whether we can supply LNG to China," Dr Ibrahim said the Chinese vice-premier would be visiting Doha very soon. The topic of supplying LNG to China may come up in the high level talks between the two sides.

Dr Ibrahim said RasGas was committed to supplying 7.5 million tonnes of LNG annually to India's Petronet LNG Limited. The supply now stands at 5 million tonnes a year. "We can supply another 2.5 million tonnes annually to Petronet. Although we don't have extra gas now, we remain committed to all our long-term buyers. Petronet is free to decide whether the 2.5 million tonnes should be loaded on to the Dahej regasification terminal or the new one coming up at Kochi," Dr Ibrahim said.

"We indeed created a new trend in Indian energy market. Till our supplies, LNG was not used anywhere as a fuel in India. Now India sees a lot of potential in LNG and this can trigger a lot of demand for liquefied natural gas in that country. Same is the case with China," Dr Ibrahim said.

He said the demand for LNG was on an upswing in the US, Europe and in Asia. Indigenous LNG production in the US has dwindled. The country is now getting gas from Canada and elsewhere. The US, according to a forecast, will be requiring 60 million tonnes of LNG annually in the next 10 years.

Meanwhile, the RasGas is in a deal (sale and purchase agreement) with Italy's Edison LNG for an annual supply of 4.6 million tonnes over a 25-year period.

The gas will be delivered to the offshore re-gasification terminal, a gravity-based structure (GBS), on an ex-ship basis, RasGas vice-chairman Dr Ibrahim B Ibrahim quoted as saying in Gulf Times.

The terminal will be built by a special purpose company jointly set up by Qatar Petroleum (QP), ExxonMobil and Edison LNG. QP and ExxonMobil have picked up 45% stake each in the terminal while the remainder (10%) will be held by Edison LNG.

Dr Ibrahim said the terminal is scheduled to complete by 2007-end. The terminal in the Adriatic Sea marked a new phase in RasGas LNG history. It is the first investment by RasGas promoters (QP and ExxonMobil) in an offshore terminal project. The terminal project had received all regulatory clearances from the Italian authorities, he pointed out.

The offshore terminal in the Adriatic Sea might also be a trendsetter, he felt. The Italian authorities, which are very strict on environmental issues, had given a grant to the project for its environmentally friendly design.

GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL

The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council and Turkey signed an agreement last Monday to begin negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA).

Turkish trade official Bayram Kacar said the deal is aimed at boosting economic ties between Turkey and the GCC, which comprises Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

"We have much more potential to improve economic ties between the two sides," said Kacar, part of the 15-member delegation headed by Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul.

Negotiations will begin in July and the agreement is expected to be finalized within a year, Kacar said. Gul and GCC Secretary-General Abdulrahman al-Attiyah signed the agreement.

Turkey and GCC annual trade stands at US$3 billion, just 1 percent of the nearly US$300 billion total annual trade of the Gulf alliance, noted Kacar.

Meanwhile, Bahrain's Foreign Minister Sheik Mohammed bin Mubarak Al Khalifa and Gul signed a memorandum of understanding to ease the travel of citizens of both countries to each other's nations.

Since May 1, Turkey has one-sidedly began giving Bahrainis visas upon arrival. It is hoped that the memorandum will pave the way for exempting the citizens of both countries from any visa fees or restrictions, said N. Murat Ersavci of the Turkish foreign office.

(Inputs from PAGE sources)