Qatar's booming LNG trade has been carving out a name for the country worldwide, and the sea freight industry is jumping on the bandwagon.
The buzz about Qatar derives from its position as the kingpin of liquefied natural gas. According to sources, the region has more than 15% of the world's proven gas reserves.
Not merely content with the crown of being the world's largest LNG exporter, Qatar's output in terms of LNG looks set to surge even further in the near future - with an expected production of an incredible 77 million tonnes per annum by 2010.
Requests for supply agreements with the region have been coming in thick and fast, from the Far East to Europe - with a growing number of companies making inquiries.
Not surprisingly, the region has been investing heavily in upgrading its shipping facilities to worldclass levels in order to manage this booming trade.
As a result, Qatar not only boasts some very impressive facilities for those wishing to set up base in the region, but it faithfully promises to be a worldclass maritime hub in the not-too-distant future.
Many players in the sea freight industry have been tipping their hats to the LNG production in the region as the key driver to this extraordinary growth. Qatargas, viewed as the pioneer of the country's LNG industry, has been to ensure the safe and reliable delivery of LNG to its customers around the world.
The company exports around 10 million tonnes of LNG per year to Japan and Spain - with a view to expanding this to a staggering 42 million tonnes to markets in Europe, Asia and North America in 2010.
"Qatargas manages the transportation through our ship charter companies who operate the fleet of twelve vessels in total," explains Abdullah Al Sulaiti, Qatargas' shipping manager. Of these, ten vessels take LNG to Japan and two supply LNG to Spain.
"In the case of Japan, these ships have been operating for over ten years and have an outstanding record for safe and reliable deliveries to our customers," he adds.
In order to meet future requirements, Qatargas has been increasing its fleet to meet the demands of substantial expansion.
By the end of the decade, the company will have quadrupled its LNG production and will be supplying customers throughout the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe and Asia. Consequently, its new vessels will need to be larger to meet the demands of the destinations.
"The larger vessels come in the form of over thirty new ship orders of the Q-Flex and Q-Max type, to be used to service the company's new projects currently under construction at Ras Laffan City," explains Al Sulaiti.
Each ship will be 80% larger than the current LNG fleet and have an impressive cargo capacity of between 210,000 and 266,000 cubic metres.
The ordering of such massive new builds shows that the region's shipping industry means serious business. Qatargas is not alone in its bid to bring more super vessels into the region.
Qatar's shipping powerhouse, Nakilat (Qatar Gas Transport Company), is also dominating the influx of ships into the region, expecting to own up to 56 LNG vessels by 2010, making it one of the largest LNG ship owners in the world.
Container vessels are also rising, with companies like Qatar Navigation putting in orders for ships to meet the increase in container traffic at Qatari ports.