Bahrain cement shortage looms

Bahrain cement shortage looms
Published: 04 June 2008

Bahrain could run out of cement within days, bringing construction activity to a halt, following tough new measures by Saudi Arabia to regulate cement exports, it emerged yesterday. The new measures require "special permission" to be obtained from the Saudi capital Riyadh for each truck crossing into Bahrain, sources told the GDN.

"This is virtually impossible to do," said Nass Group vice-chairman Samir Nass. "Contractors in the country are fast running out of supplies and no further supplies are coming in."

He said Bahrain needs around 8000 to 10,000t of cement every day, of which around 70 per cent comes by road, with the rest coming in by sea. "The cement coming in by sea is not enough," said Mr Nass. He said around 50 trucks that approached the Saudi-Bahrain border yesterday, have been turned away because they did not have the paperwork in line with the new rules.

United Cement Company manager L R Eriksen the said the Saudi authorities had told importers their intention to enforce the new rules from June 16. "We had been asked to get the paperwork done and had started getting our act in order," Mr Eriksen. He said, however, they were told on Monday evening that the new rules would be implemented immediately.

"There are 460 sets of documents that we have to complete for a week to ensure that the trucks come in unhindered. Each set consists of between four and five papers and has to go through half a dozen officials in Riyadh. It is a logistical nightmare," said Mr Eriksen.

He said that "nothing moved" throughout yesterday and he expects the same to happen today. "We will then have the weekend in Saudi Arabia on Thursday and Friday and then the weekend in Bahrain, which ends on Saturday. This means the earliest we can hope to get things moving is early next week.

"If Bahrain does not get its supplies of cement until that time, there will be no more construction activity for several days." He said the situation has always been bad, but it is now "a complete mess".

Another contractor, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there was a severe shortage of cement in Saudi Arabia and they do not have enough to meet their own needs. "But rather than completely ban exports, which is not a politically correct thing to do, they have made it extremely difficult. This will kill the Bahrain industry," he said.