Resuming Aqaba-Nuweiba ferrying met with mixed reactions

People carrying their cargo to the ferry to go to Nuweiba
People carrying their cargo to the ferry to go to Nuweiba in this file photo. (Photo: Shutterstock)
AMMAN — Traffic resumed on Sunday between Aqaba and Egypt’s Nuweiba, with passengers welcoming the development as good news and merchants remaining reluctant to reuse the route. اضافة اعلان

The hiatus lasted for 415 days, after maritime travel was halted when the COVID-19 pandemic started over a year ago.

Passenger transport operations will continue as before, governed by health protocols which include limiting the ship to 75 percent of its original capacity, and requiring passengers to provide a 120-hour valid PCR test from any laboratory approved by the Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Deputy General Manager of Arab Bridge Maritime Company Adnan Abadleh told Jordan News.

“Jordanian borders annually receive and send around 800 to 900 thousand individuals from Jordan to Egypt and vice versa. As a transport line, we provide ticket prices that compete with both Jordanian and Egyptian airlines. JD87 is the round-trip ticket price for trips between Jordan and Egypt,” he said.

The Arab Bridge Maritime Company, which is the only maritime company between Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq, transports passengers and also facilitates the import and export of goods between the three countries. “Fruits, vegetables, coals, and furniture are imported from Egypt to Jordan and Iraq, and Jordan exports paper, chemical materials, medicine, paint, and electronics,” Abadleh explained.

The reopening was met with positive reactions from both Jordanian and Egyptian passengers who have long depended on the line between Aqaba and Nuweiba as a method of transportation to and from Egypt.

“I will be finally able to travel back to my family. This could have been the third Eid I spent away from my family!” Qouds Hasan, an Egyptian worker in Jordan, told Jordan News.

“All my Egyptian friends in Amman and I could not afford to book airline tickets back to Egypt now that our income has drastically decreased with the COVID-19 situation.”

The Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA) announced last week that the reopening of the border would increase trade between Jordan and Egypt and will also increase touristic activities by around 35 percent.

“The closing of the border had a powerful impact on commercial traffic between Jordan and Egypt. It also affected the facilitation of Egyptian workers that work in many areas, specifically agricultural areas,” Commissioner for Tourism and Economic Affairs at the ASEZA Sharhabeel Madi told Jordan News in an interview over the phone.

The resumption of traffic at the border will have a major impact on the reactivation of the economy between Jordan and Egypt since this border specifically serves many migrant workers, Madi said.

“The biggest effect (of the closure) was on the transportation of goods and specifically fruits and vegetables that used to arrive from Egypt, which was affected for a limited time until Nuweiba border was reopened,” he explained.

Daifallah Abu Aqouleh, chief of the Association of Owners of Clearance and Transport Companies, told Jordan News that merchants usually find alternate ways to transport their goods after any border closes down.

“Even if it (the Nuweiba border) reopens, traffic will not be the same. Some merchants found alternative ways they have become comfortable with,” he said.

“Merchants need to be certain that the border will never close again to be able to continue their cooperation with the Arab Bridge Maritime Company, which is a sophisticated company that allows merchants to trade goods faster and in larger quantities than the ways they chose,” he added.

Abu Aquoleh explained the alternate ways merchants had to use included a Suez-Jeddah-Kuwait then Iraq route for goods exported from Egypt to Iraq. As for Jordanian-exported goods, merchants had to use Aqaba Containers Port, which is slower and smaller in capacity in comparison with the ArabBridge Maritime Company.

Madi also told Jordan News that maritime transport is cheaper than air transport and the closing of the border caused many workers to refrain from returning to their homes in Egypt until the Aqaba-Nuweiba line reopened.

Ahmad Tarawneh, a Jordanian medical student at Ain Shams University in Egypt told Jordan News that he is very pleased with passenger traffic resuming between Aqaba and Nuweiba.

“This will help me save airline travel costs and to invest the rest in my tuition fees. My airline ticket usually costs JD270, while traveling through Aqaba-Nuweiba costs me a total of JD90. It’s a huge difference that benefits Jordanians and Egyptians alike,” he said.

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