"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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
"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
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
"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
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
(Inputs from PAGE sources)