The UAE’s economy minister expressed his concerns over persistent piracy, volatile oil prices and threats to shut down shipping lanes in the Gulf and urged a global response to counter such situations.
“The shipping business in general now has to address growing piracy threats. There are regional concerns too, especially those relating to the potential closure of shipping routes,” Sultan bin Saeed al-Mansouri told a conference.
“These concerns have international implications and must be addressed in the spirit of cooperation and dialogue.”
The UAE, world’s fifth biggest oil exporter, ships its crude through the Strait of Hormuz, which Iran threatened to block in retaliation to the US-led sanctions on its oil exports.
About a fifth of the world’s traded oil passes through the Strait and then enters the pirate-infested waters of Indian Ocean.
Regional leaders have downplayed Iranian threats but privately sought assurances from Tehran it will not block the vital waterway, in response to squeezing of oil exports or an attack on the country’s suspected nuclear sites.
US, French and British naval vessels routinely patrol the Strait of Hormuz.
Mansouri also urged regional countries for further cooperation on combatting piracy and expressed qualms about the rising costs of merchant shipping due to rising oil prices.
Naval forces from big oil-consuming countries like China and the US have been working together to protect shipping in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden from gangs of Somali pirates.
The joint counter-piracy efforts – covering an area of ocean four times the size of the Arabian peninsula – have managed to stem the number of hijackings in the last few months, a NATO spokesman said on Monday.
Brent crude oil prices surged early last month, hitting over $128.40 per barrel, the highest level since mid-2008. Fears over the potential closure of Strait of Hormuz and supply problems from Sudan and Yemen.
The UAE minister said that shipping accounts for 80% of global trade while noting that sea-borne trade volumes have quadrupled over the last four decades. Mansouri also hoped that Abu Dhabi’s new Khalifa Port would become operational in the fourth quarter of 2012.