Basra: Emirates yesterday launched its new service to Basra as trade ties between the UAE and Iraq continue to strengthen.
The inaugural flight, which was Emirates' first service into Iraq, marked the airline's 110th international destination.
Both passenger and cargo services will operate to and from Basra with an estimated 130 tonnes of freight per week expected to move between the two cities.
Tim Clark, president of Emirates, said: "Iraq is experiencing a surge in growth and it is our goal to help the country prosper and flourish.
"The potential for this destination is significant and Emirates is committed to working with the Iraqi authorities to make Basra a success."
The inaugural flight was met by the Governor of Basra, Shaltagh Aboud Al Mayahi, the Head of Basra Council, Jabbar Amin Jaber Latif and Basra Airport Manager Abdul Ameer Ghanim Abdullah.
The service will operate four times a week — on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. EK945 will depart Dubai at 1.45pm and land at Basra International Airport at 2.45pm the same day. The return flight, EK946, departs Basra at 4.15pm and lands in Dubai at 7.10pm.
"We expect this new destination to be extremely popular with the many multinational companies who have a presence in Basra," said Adel Ali Redha, Emirates executive vice-president for engineering and operations.
"As the city rebuilds, there will be an increasing requirement for both personnel and commodities to travel into Basra," he added.
A number of major UAE companies are currently investing in Iraq, primarily in the construction industry.
In addition to transporting equipment for oil and petroleum companies, Emirates says it expects to carry a range of goods to Iraq including perishable foodstuffs, auto parts, textiles and electronic items and others.
Goods travelling in the other direction — to the likes of the US, Europe, China and India — will include petroleum products, grains, wool and dates.
Mohanad Ali, Financial Secretary of the Iraqi Business Council in Dubai and the Northern Emirates, said the UAE was the top global investor in Iraq in the first nine months of 2009 with $37.7 billion (Dh138.4 billion) worth of projects, primarily in the oil, gas and real estate sectors.
Ali said that although there are strong business ties between the two countries, there is still scope to further increase the volume of trade to $10 billion annually with the UAE and Iraq both ambitious to capitalise on new investment opportunities. The volume of trade with Iraq was over $5 billion in 2010.
Ali said: "The UAE is the gateway to conducting extensive business in the Gulf. Therefore, most of the goods imported by Iraq from countries around the world, especially Asian countries, pass through the UAE. A large number of Iraqi companies are also registered in the UAE, which is a clear indication of the importance of the country as a commercial site for Iraq."
Ali says foreign investment is crucial to help facilitate the development of Iraq's infrastructure and develop its businesses, which in turn would create new jobs and attract capital.
He added: "We recognise there are obstacles resulting from the nature of the legal structure governing business in Iraq.
"Security challenges and poverty of the country's infrastructure are considered the biggest challenges when conducting business in Iraq.
"But with patience and persistence, these obstacles can be overcome because the opportunities are now available to researchers for investment opportunities."