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Mon 2 Apr 2012 08:03 PM

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Routes, piracy, prices threat to shipping, says UAE

Economy minister says shipping industry has to address growing piracy threats

Routes, piracy, prices threat to shipping, says UAE
Pirate attacks cost the global economy up to $12bn a year

Gulf concerns including threats to shut shipping lanes, persistent piracy and volatile oil prices need a global response, the UAE's economy minister said on Monday.

"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, one of the world's top oil exporters, ships its crude through the Strait of Hormuz, which Iran has threatened to block as tensions between Tehran and the West have intensified over the last few months.

Leaders in the region have sought assurances Iran will not carry out its threat, made in response to Western efforts to squeeze Tehran's oil exports. About a fifth of the world's traded oil passes through the Strait and into the pirate-infested Indian Ocean.

The Strait of Hormuz has been constantly patrolled by a fleet of US, French and British naval vessels for years.

Mansouri also called for more cooperation on fighting piracy and said merchant shipping was likely to be hit by current oil price fluctuations.

Many of the world's naval forces, mostly from oil-consuming countries including China and the United States, have been working to protect shipping in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden from gangs of Somali pirates.

The international counter-piracy effort - covering an area of ocean four times the size of the Arabian peninsula - has helped sharply reduce the number of successful hijackings in the last few months, NATO said on Monday.

Brent crude oil prices surged in early 2011, hitting over $128.40 per barrel in early March, their highest level since mid-2008, stoked by fears over the potential Hormuz shipping problems and supply problems from Sudan and Yemen.

Shipping accounts for 80 percent of global trade, and sea-borne trade volumes have quadrupled over the last four decades, Mansouri said, adding that Abu Dhabi's new Khalifa Port would become operational in the fourth quarter of 2012.

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