Rome is amongst Doha’s most important warship suppliers.
Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri has launched a fourth Zubarahclass corvette for Qatar, “Sumaysimah” as the Gulf state expands its navy.
The newly-launched vessel is the latest out of a total of four ships ordered by Qatar’s Ministry of Defence (MOD) under a 2017 deal worth more than $5 billion ($553,5250,000). The agreement entailed four corvettes, one amphibious vessel, and two off shore patrol vessels.
“The Al Zubarah-class corvettes, designed consistent with the RINAMIL rules, will be highly flexible and capable of fulfilling different kinds of tasks, from surveillance with sea rescue capacities to being fighting vessels,” said the shipbuilder.
The Sumaysimah vessel’s launch took place at the Muggiano (La Spezia) shipyard, attended by a number of officials from Qatar’s MOD including Brigadier Rashid Al Qashouti, Chief of Staff Representative of Qatar Armed Forces.
Several Italian defence officials were in attendance, including Rear Admiral Riccardo Marchiò, Italian Navy MCM Force Commander, and by Marco Acca, Deputy General Manager Naval Vessel Division of Fincantieri.
According to the Italian shipbuilder, the vessels measure are at least 107 meters long and 14.70 wide. They can also carry 112 persons on board and can hold one NH90 helicopter.
Italy is amongst Qatar’s most important international partners in the maritime industry, as the Gulf state seeks to expand its navy.
After Qatar’s MOD struck the major deal with Fincantieri, the building process of the vessels started in 2018.
Beyond manufacturing ships, Fincantieri had agreed to established a branch in Doha in 2017 as a subsidiary licensed by the Qatar Financial Centre.
The agreement was crucial in ensuring that the Italian company can easily provide logistical support in the design and construction process of the Italian ships at home.
Then in 2020, Fincantieri signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the MOD’s Barzan Holding to strengthen their cooperation. In January, Qatar reportedly purchased six Leonardo M-346 jet trainers as part of a 2020 defence deal. Beyond defence, the two countries share strong bilateral ties.
In February, Qatar and Italy held the first Qatar-Italy strategic dialogue in Rome, where senior diplomats from the two countries reviewed their bilateral ties and issues of common concern. Such topics included the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.
As the Russian invasion continues to threat Europe’s gas supplies, Qatar was approached by some of its Western partners, including Italy.
In March, Italy turned to Qatar to potentially replace its gas supplies during a visit by Italy’s Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio. Rome’s gas supply heavily relies on gas imports, that amount to more than 90% of its demand.
In 2020, Russia made up 40% of those imports.
Last year, Qatar helped evacuate more than 1000 Italian citizens and Afghan nationals after the Taliban militarily seized power in August last year. Qatar also agreed to move Italy’s embassy from Kabul to Doha.
Italy also stands as Qatar’s eighth largest trading partner, with bilateral trade exchanges witnessing a 56% growth in the first 10 months of 2021.