March 31, 2003

Situation in Umm Qasr
The U.S. Navy's Maritime Liason Office in Bahrain has received numerous inquiries regarding the status of Umm Qasr Port in Iraq. This is the current situation, according to a MARLO advisory issued today:

  • Umm Qasr Port has been secured by Coalition military forces, but it is not yet cleared for normal commercial operations.
  • Thus far, one ship has delivered humanitarian aid cargo to Umm Qasr, a UK Royal Fleet Navy Auxiliary ship designed for shallow water operations.
  • There is still a low-level threat of Iraqi underwater explosives, which coalition forces are neutralizing as quickly as possible.
  • Coalition forces are currently engaged in clearing the area north of Umm Qasr of commercial vessels, all of which will be exiting via the Khor Abd-Allah waterway. These ships will be departing Iraqi waters over the next few days and this activity will be closely monitored by Coalition forces.
  • Port services remain extremely limited at this early stage and it is doubtful that commercial ships could discharge cargo even if they were allowed entry to the port. The actual availability of tugs, pilots, stevedore services, crane and cargo handling equipment, and machinery operations is still being ascertained. In addition, because there are currently no UN Oil-for-Food Inspectors present at Umm Qasr, administrative procedures to verify cargo delivery have yet to be put back in place.
  • "We understand the regional shipping community's desire to resume normal operations at Umm Qasr," says the advisory. "Coalition forces are working as quickly as possible toward this goal, since the delivery of humanitarian cargo to the Iraqi people remains a top priority. However, we ask for your continued patience as the above issues are resolved, in order to ensure both safe passage and efficient operations."

    "This is a dynamic, rapidly changing situation," concludes the advisory," but we will attempt to keep you accurately advised through these channels. Once Umm Qasr is re-opened for business, we will advise you on port's status and procedures for entry." .

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