In an effort to woo more tourists, a local company plans to launch the first passenger and vehicle ferry between Qatar and Bahrain by the middle of next year.
The new service will include two return trips a day from Al Ruwais port in northern Qatar to Khalifa bin Salman port in Bahrain and will take commercial as well as personal vehicles.
This will be the first ferry service in recent years to run between Gulf countries, an industry source told Doha News.
The service will be operated by the Qatari firm Gulf Ferry, with input from Doha-based Sora Marine Services.
The launch of the ferry will likely be welcome news for truck drivers.
It will also offer another route for tourists who want to explore the Gulf in their own vehicles.
The trip is estimated to take some 1.5 to 2.5 hours, compared to the 4.5 hour journey time by land from Qatar to Bahrain.
Driving there also currently involves crossing through Saudi Arabia.
In the past, there has been repeated talk of building a Qatar-Bahrain causeway, but this has never come to fruition.
If the ferry is successful, there are also plans to operate one from Qatar to the UAE, although there is no timeline for this yet.
This much longer route would involve an overnight crossing and so would use different vessels from those operating the Bahrain-to-Qatar trips.
How it will work
One boat has already been lined up to operate the route, with another soon to follow, the industry source told Doha News.
Each vessel will have a capacity of around 50 vehicles and can hold approximately 100 passengers at a time.
The “ro-pax” ferries allow vehicles to be driven straight onto and off of a dedicated deck.
There will also be separate passenger facilities. But the interior configuration of the vessels is still being confirmed, the source added.
Rumors of the new ferry began circulating on social media in Qatar last weekend.
A representative for Sora Marine Services confirmed to Doha News that preparations for the project were “ongoing,” and said full details of the service would be revealed early next year.
Exact timings for the service have not yet been confirmed, he added.
At least one shipping company in Abu Dhabi has previously talked about launching an intra-Gulf ferry line, but has not officially confirmed anything to date.
A commercial ferry used to run between Qatar and Iran, but this route ended several years ago.
The first phase of Al Ruwais port was officially inaugurated by Qatar’s Prime Minister early last year. It’s part of a plan to increase trade in the region, Qatar Ports Management Company (Mwani Qatar) said at the time.
The new land route would make it easier to transport goods between the two countries, while also opening up opportunities for tourists.
Attracting more visitors to Qatar from neighboring Gulf states is a crucial part of Qatar’s developing tourism industry.
Nearly half of all visitors here during the first half of the year came from GCC countries.
Qatar is also keen to encourage more people to travel by sea to explore its attractions, including on the cruise circuit.
The World was the first of this season to dock here last month. Around 32 vessels are expected to come to Qatar between October and April 2017.
Would you take a ferry to Bahrain? Thoughts?