The Port of Fujairah handled 24 million tonnes of general and bulk cargo and oil in 2004 a 26 per cent increase over 2003, officials said.

"The strategic location of our port, at the crossroads of shipping between east and west, has made it one of the leading multi-purpose ports in the Middle East," a port official said.

Since its completion, the port has sought to keep pace with Fujairah's economic growth, and remains committed to expanding its facilities, the official said.

"We are known as one of the largest bunkering and marine services centres in the world," he said.

The port is the third largest bunkering centre in the world. Its bunkering business represents 61 per cent of the bunkering market in the region.

"The port is currently constructing an 840-metre quay dedicated to tanker berths.

"It is scheduled to be completed by the end of next July," the official said.

Many vessels use Fujairah's anchorage to take advantage of the bunkering and marine services provided by the port, the official said.

A fleet of more than 61 privately owned and professionally operated supply boats based in the port meets the rising demand for support services from ships in transit, the official said.

The port's anchorage is seven nautical miles off the coast and receives more than 6,000 vessels a year.

"Major companies have invested in new offices and warehousing facilities within the port last year to meet the growing requirements of vessels using the anchorage facility," the official said.

A new bulk loader capable of loading 2,000 tonnes per hour became operational at the end of 2003, the official said.

An agreement was recently signed with Dubai Ports International to manage the port's container traffic and generate opportunities for additional commercial exchanges between Fujairah and Dubai.

"The agreement will also help the port improve its competitiveness at the regional and international levels," the official said.