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Travel Report Jordan - Iraq 27.10.99 bis 07.11.99

published in DVZ Issue No. 6 / 15. January 2000

Nearly 10 years of UN-Embargo has influenced the flow of goods to Iraq considerably. But there are signs that things are starting to improve. Just recently the "Oil for Food Programme" of the UN has been increased drastically, which will result in increased import activities in Iraq. Therefore I had the assignment of a client to travel to Iraq to get a first hand impression of the local situation.

For Jordan, Iraq is the most important trade partner and Jordan is an important connection to the outside world. The port of Aqaba handles a lot of goods, that are imported into Iraq through the "Oil for Food Programme".

The major commodities are consumables such as rice, tea, sugar, medical supplies, vehicles and spare parts for the oil industry.

Important trade partners at the moment are Russia, China, France, Vietnam and Algeria

Germany does not play a role in shipments to Iraq. The first obstacle for me, was to obtain a visa. Only thanks to good, old local contacts in Jordan and Iraq I obtained a visa through the Iraqi Embassy in Amman. Due to the Embargo travel into Iraq is only possible by land or sea.

My trip went via Amman to Baghdad. Up to the Jordanian border the road is mainly one lane with several dual carriage ways. There is heavy traffic. Manly tank trucks and trailers with reefer containers were on the road. The trip from Amman to the border takes about 4.5 hours.

At the border on the Iraqi side the UN-assigned company Cotecna checks all trucks and containers. Our stay at the Jordanian side lasted 20 Min., on the Iraqi side 25 Min. We were treated politely.

After the border at Trebil begins a highway straight to Baghdad, which is in very good condition. To begin with a dual-carriage way, later going into six lanes. For tank-trucks the highway is not permited and therefore there is little traffic.  The trip from the border to Baghdad only took 4 hours.

Fuel in Iraq is very cheap.  One liter only costs 40 Iraqi-Dinar (ID) or about one German Pfennig. For one US$ you get ID 1,900.-. The biggest note is ID 250.- Therefore larger amounts of cash present a serious logistic problem.

Arriving in Baghdad, the state of hotels was quite depressive. At my hotel the embargo left remarkable traces and I refuse to comment on the hygenic state. Only few hotels such as the Al Rasheed and some private hotels meet western standards. But these hotels are always overbooked and my arrival co-incided with the Baghdad International Fair , which this year with 39 states participating has a truly international profile .

The strongest presence showed France. Due to the Embargo the display of goods was limited. On display were mainly foodstuff, pharmaceutical products, cleaning materials, articles for body-hygene, passenger cars, agricultural machinery, generators and vehicles, textiles and entertainment electronics.

Priority for all participants was obviously the keeping and maintaining of contacts.

The technical handling of trade  - so the result of many discussions - was consistantly rated as satisfactory (once UN-permission is granted). Especially the financial aspect is no problem within the frame of the regulations. Once sanctions are lifted, financing of projects will be one of the biggest problems. As there is still considerable debt prior to the Gulf War a lot of people see problems ahead.

The Foreign Traders therefore hope for a gradual lifting of sanctions with increased amounts for the"Oil for Food Programme".

With a population of about 24 million people, the critical observer might ask the question about the purpose of the embargo. It is evident that the targets of the embargo are not met. The simple population is suffering for everybody to see, whereas the financially privileged seem to have a good life-style.

The supply of goods in the shops is plenty and in good variety.

From Baghdad our trip continued to Basrah and Umm Qasr , but only on country roads as the highway is considered unsafe.

The port of Basrah did not show any significant activity. Due to the build-up of sand in the Shat el Arab this port is only accessable for vessels with little draft.

The Port of Umm Qasr lies about 90 kms south of Basrah at the entry of the Shat el Arabs and is at the moment the only seaport for direct deliveries into Iraq. In general Containers are handled in feeder services from Khor Fakkan (Sharjah) and bulk-carriers with foodstuff like wheat, rice, sugar and flour.

Following lines are offering regular services to Umm Qasr:

Maersk, CMA, American President Lines (APL), Evergreen, Uniglory, COSCO.

There is only one gantry-crane for the handling of containers in Umm Qasr.

According to the Port Authorities the crane is frequently out of order and spare parts are difficult to obtain.

There are eight operating berths for vessels with a draft of 8m to maximum 11m. There is only one dredger, which is permanently working to maintain the draft.

It s obvious that this country has a huge need and remains interesting as a trade partner, even more so once the embargo is eased further or even lifted

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