Friday, May 29, 2015

Syria moves toward maritime trade after losing most border crossings

After extremist militants claimed control of almost all of Syria's border points with neighboring countries, the country started relying on its seaports as a main conduit for import and export amid assurances that Syrian seaports are fully prepared and capable for trade movement.

Over the span of the four-year-old conflict, the Syrian government lost almost all of the border crossings with neighboring countries to the rebels, and is left with only two crossings with Lebanon.

Islamic State (IS) militants seized control of the al-Tanf, also known as al-Walid, border-crossing, the last border point between Syria and Iraq May 21. Last month, Syrian forces also lost the Nasib border crossing with Jordan to the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front.

Mazen Nseir, chief executive officer of the international container terminal of the Latakia city seaport, told Xinhua that the closure of the Nasib border crossing with Jordan, one of the most important points for import and export, caused an increase in the volume of the seaport exports by eight percent within one month only.

"Last month, we had an extra 1,000 containers for export as a result of the border crossing closure," he said.

"We are ready in case of any closure of any border point because we are a crucial point for receiving goods by sea. We are a critical border point and we are fully prepared with our staff and equipment to import and export goods," Nseir added.

  • However, he noted that Western sanctions and restrictions imposed on Syria have negatively affected maritime trade movement in Syria since the start of the crisis.
"Regarding the seaports, the decline and increase of productivity is related to foreign sanctions and restrictions on Syria and such decisions caused a decline in the number of expected imported or exported containers," he remarked.

He said the crisis and sanctions have affected the number of containers, which witnessed a decline by 60 or 70 percent in 2013. However, he added that the number of containers started increasing by 33 percent in 2014, noting that the situation is stable now.

He added the main Latakia seaport in Syria, has injected 26.48 million US dollars in revenues into the state treasury in 2014, adding that the port received over 88,000 containers in the first half of 2015.

Improvement in maritime transportation came due to merchants' reliance on seaport export and import from friendly countries because maritime transportation is safer. It was also to avoid restrictions imposed by Western countries which contributed in an increase in exports by around 33 percent in 2014, according to Nseir.

He said that currently there is a study being conducted to expand and upgrade the Latakia seaport, and to deepen the wharves to be able to receive giant vessels, all part of efforts to support cargo traffic at the port.

Nseir also added that some parts of the port are also going to be renovated.

Meanwhile, Hussam Ali Doumani, director of maritime transport affairs at the Ministry of Transportation, told Xinhua that the Latakia seaport is capable of handling 10,000 tons of goods annually, adding moreover, that the seaport of Tartus city is capable of handling 16,000 tons of goods annually.

He also stressed the readiness of the seaport following the closure of the border points, saying "our seaports are ready even with the closure of border points. We have large container terminals in Latakia and Tartus city."

"Now most of the import and export is being conducted through seaports," he said, adding that the ministry is undertaking a number of measures to encourage the sea trade movement.

"We have tariffs competitive with other seaports in neighboring countries. We are also working on forming central labs at the seaports to analyze samples of imported or exported goods," he said, adding that the labs are located in other provinces, which might delay sea trade.

"We are working to create labs to analyze the samples at the ports because currently the samples are sent to labs in Damascus," he continued.

Doumani said that upgrading and expanding the seaport is being discussed with a Russian company, likely to carry out the upgrade. However, he noted that no timeframe exists for the expansion work until a final agreement is reached with the Russian contractor.

Muhannad Muhrez, a Syrian merchant specialized in importing electronics, told Xinhua that he placed an order to import electronics through the Nasib border crossing, adding that after the downfall of the crossing, he ordered his goods to be sent by sea to the Latakia seaport.

He said expenses of importing via sea will be less than the land border point because he can currently order bigger containers.

Muhrez, however, noted that maritime trade may be bad for those importing fruits because it takes longer than the regular land route.

 Source:Xinhua -


  1. The European Union is extending its sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for another year as the Syrian civil war rages on...

    One more person has been added to the sanctions list on which "over 200 persons and 70 entities are targeted by EU sanctions over the violent repression against the civilian population in Syria," the Council of the European Union said in a statement on Thursday.

    "This person is a high-ranking military official deemed responsible for repression and violence against the civilian population in Damascus and Damascus countryside," the council said, adding that information about this person would be available in the EU Official Journal on Friday.

    More than 200,000 people have been killed in Syria as the war enters its fifth year.

    The council said in December 2014 that the EU would continue imposing and enforcing sanctions against the Syrian regime and its closest partners as long as repression in the war-torn country would continue.

    "For the EU, a lasting solution to the conflict can only come through a Syrian-led political process that leads to a transition," the council also said in the statement.

  2. UN aid chief: Syria descending into deeper depths of despair....

    Outgoing UN aid chief Valerie Amos painted a brutal portrait of Syria's civil war on Thursday in her final briefing to the Security Council.

    "For more than four years, we have watched Syria descend into deeper depths of despair, surpassing what even the most pessimistic observers thought possible," she said. "The situation throughout the country is, by any measure, extremely grave and deteriorating by the day."

    The UN says more than 220,000 people have been killed in Syria since the onset of the violence in March 2011, but the number is likely much higher.

    Some 12.2 million people need humanitarian assistance throughout the country, as well as more than 4.8 million trapped in hard-to-reach areas, according to the UN.

    "In the past weeks, we have seen more and more heinous acts. Innocent men, women and children killed, maimed, displaced, and subjected to a savagery that no human should have to endure," Amos said.

    She particularly cited an aerial bombing of a market in Darkoush in rural Idlib in northeastern Syria at the end of April, in which up to 50 people were killed and over 100 civilians wounded............

  3. Syrian Army Units Evacuate Positions in Ariha, Deploy in Defensive Lines ...

    Syrian Army units evacuated their positions in Ariha city in the countryside of Idleb province and withdrew to defensive lines on the outskirts of the city after fierce battles with large numbers of Al-Nusra front terrorists.

    The units, earlier, destroyed a number of mortar-launchers for the terrorists during the confrontations in Ariha, according to SANA.

    The army’s air force destroyed dens for terrorists and a number of their vehicles, killed several terrorists near Nahlya, Mseibin and Kfar Lata in Idleb countryside.


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