Abu Dhabi: Omani Border Crossing Reopens for Public


Border crossing reopens by presidential decree

The closed crossing point resulted in long queues at alternate border crossings and divided communities that have been connected for generations.

ABU DHABI - JULY 21: Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed has ordered the reopening of the Al Mudeef crossing point between Al Ain and the Omani town of Buraimi “for humanitarian reasons”.

Sheikh Khalifa, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, issued the order yesterday to the great relief of residents of both towns.

Less than a week ago, the Government closed the crossing point, resulting in long queues at alternate border crossings and dividing communities that have been connected for generations.

“I am very happy now,” said Ayoub Ben Karam, 30, a resident of Buraimi who owns a business selling agricultural equipment and relies on customers from Al Ain. “[Over the past week], it has been so bad, we are just staying here in Buraimi and I have not had one single customer.”

The decision reflected the President’s concern for the people, said Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, the Minister of Interior, who delivered the announcement.

“The diversion of the route has been suspended for humanitarian reasons,” he said in a statement issued by the state news agency WAM. “One obvious reason is that the decision has coincided with summer holidays. Thus, the new post has been inundated with travellers, causing delays and crowdedness. This is why the President has stepped in to suspend the decision.”

As of midnight last Monday, Al Mudeef was closed and the nearby Al Hili border crossing designated for GCC citizens only. Expatriates were diverted to the new Khatam al Shakla border crossing some 20km from Al Ain and Buraimi. The reason for the new measures, according to border patrol officials, was to curb illegal immigration.

However, for the past week people travelling across the border at peak hours were stuck in long queues, some stretching for kilometres, in the searing heat. For Emiratis, Omanis and expatriates, what was previously a five- to 10-minute trip had become a journey of more than an hour.

Jamal al Safar, the general manager of the Al Salam hotel in Buraimi, was among those who had been stuck for up to two hours at the Khatam al Shakla border crossing.

“This is wonderful that they will be reopening the border,” he said. “We are all very happy, especially as Khatam al Shakla was too far and we had to wait too long to cross. [Over the past week], we had to set aside half a day just to get to Al Ain.”

Mr Safar, originally from Iraq, said the reopening would be keenly appreciated by both nationals and expatriates living in Buraimi. “We will be happy again because this will allow us to continue our lives like normal people.”

As one of the hundreds who descended on the Al Mudeef crossing on Friday and Saturday to voice their opposition to the closure, Ali al Bahri, 33, from Buraimi, described the reversal of the decision as “great news”.

“I am surprised that they reopened [the crossing] so soon, but it is great,” he said.

Particularly with the cost of living comparatively high in Al Ain, in recent years many people working in the oasis city have opted to live just across the border in Buraimi, making the short commute across the Al Mudeef border every day.

Mr Bahri’s wife, who is pregnant, is among those who divides her time between the two towns; working at a hospital in Al Ain and living in Buraimi. As a non-GCC national, she has had to brave the long queues at Khatam al Shakla since the closure.

In related news, the UAE and Oman were expected to agree to a list of co-ordinates and detailed maps delineating the final border between the two nations stretching from Oqaidat to Al Daara, WAM said. Dr Matar Hamed al Neyadi, the Rapporteur of the Permanent Committee of the UAE-Oman border, said the 51 maps and three lists of co-ordinates delineated the border signal posts in the three border sectors, including from Oqaidat to Khatama Malaha, Dibba to Al Daara, and Madha to Al Nahwa.

A company specialising in border demarcation and maps had been assigned to the task under the supervision of a joint UAE-Omani technical team, he added.


Bus lanes considered

A bus pulls up to a stop on Airport Road and Al Saada street.

ABU DHABI - JUL 21: Bus lanes could be created in the capital as transport authorities seek to more than triple the number of buses on the roads by the end of the year.

Police and Department of Transport (DoT) officials have met to discuss safety standards for the new free bus service, which is so popular that the vehicles often become overcrowded at rush hour and tempers sometimes flare among passengers and drivers.

The 30-seat buses are frequently filled to capacity in the evenings, and drivers say they often carry more than 70 passengers at a time. The DoT has said six routes would be added to the network next month and that the fleet would be expanded to 500 vehicles from 125 by the end of the year.

Major Gen Ahmed Nasser al Raisi, the general director of Abu Dhabi Police operations, and Mohammed Nasser al Otaiba, the director of planning for the DoT, discussed ways of ensuring boarding and disembarking passengers remained safe and that buses stopped only at designated locations.

DoT officials noted that some areas did not have designated stops, and requested that police create bus lanes on the right side of roads. Police officials said the special lanes could be created if buses stopped for no longer than 15 seconds.

The officials also discussed the possibility of installing electronic tracking systems on the buses and limiting the number of passengers. Drivers say they often have to deal with a rush of surly passengers in the evenings, who demand to be let off at unscheduled stops or refuse to give up seats in the front, intended for women and the elderly.

DoT officials have acknowledged the safety concerns, but have been hesitant to employ guards or establish other security measures. Instead, they have appealed to the public to improve their behaviour.

Passengers with concerns about the buses are urged to call a hotline – 800 55555.


Black market car parts put drivers at risk

Legitimate car manufacturers claim they lose more than Dh735 million a year to counterfeiters in the Middle East. An estimated 30 per cent of cars in the UAE have fake parts

DUBAI - JUL 21: When Matt Prayer, a Dubai resident, needed an engine part for his limited-edition Ford Mustang Rouge, he was told he would have to wait at least a month.

But the mechanics at the garage in Sharjah were quick to offer a solution. Mr Prayer, 29, could buy a cheap replica part manufactured in the UAE.

What they did not tell him, however, was that this would make him a participant in the multimillion-dirham trade of counterfeit car parts that law enforcement agencies have linked to other criminal activities, including money laundering and perhaps even terrorism.

When the garage made Mr Prayer the offer, a reporter from The National was present. The details have been forwarded to the police, but officials say the trade in counterfeit parts is widespread and insidious.

The counterfeiting car parts industry is potentially dangerous as fake parts carry no guarantees and are not necessarily manufactured to meet safety standards.

Legitimate car manufacturers say they lose more than Dh735 million (US$200m) a year to counterfeiters in the Middle East. The percentage of fake parts installed in the region’s vehicles is 30 per cent compared with 20 per cent globally, according to Middle East Car magazine, car manufacturers and government figures.

“There is an enormous trade in fake spare parts in the Gulf region,” says Philip Moore, publishing director of Middle East Car. “Knock-offs and fake goods with market brands that have never seen the inside of a genuine car factory are making their way into cars, and are very dangerous, costing the industry a lot of money.

“Whenever there is a fatal crash on Sheikh Zayed Road [in Dubai], one must question if fake parts had anything to do with it.”

According to research by the Brand Owner’s Protection Group (BPG), a Dubai-based organisation fighting the spread of black market goods, the counterfeit car part industry is the biggest trade in fakes based on market value and volume, accounting for 69 per cent of all counterfeit products.

Tobacco is second at 22 per cent, while the trade in fake cosmetics stands at five per cent.

Revenue lost by the automobile industry is estimated at US$89m (Dh327m) for 2006. However, according to Omar Shteiwi, chairman of the BPG, losses in 2007 and 2008 could be far greater.

Up to 60 per cent of all fake car parts are imported from China, India and the Philippines and about 40 per cent are manufactured in the UAE.

“Dubai acts as a transit point for counterfeit goods as much as a destination for cheap car parts,” says Mr Shteiwi.

By reducing the demand for cheap car parts, the supply “would eventually dry up”, he said. “We are currently working with government agencies and authorities to teach them how to distinguish between original car parts and fakes.”

Working with the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation, the BPG plans to run social awareness programmes to teach individuals about the dangers of fake parts and how consumers can spot and report fake goods.

The UAE has one of the highest car ownership levels in the world. Because of its central geographical location and low import taxes, it is flooded with inexpensive cars from abroad; many vehicles change hands three or four times within a year or two of arriving in the region. This means that the demand for spare parts is growing across the region.

Saada Mohammed, the spokesman for General Motors Middle East, said the UAE’s extreme weather conditions, particularly the heat, were damaging cars and some models suffered more than others.

“Unfortunately, at the moment, there is not a culture among the majority of consumers in the Middle East to question why a particular branded product is so much cheaper in one outlet than another,” he said. “It is this lack of consumer awareness, coupled with the desire to save money, but still to be seen with the desirable brands that creates a perfect market for the counterfeiters.”

General Motors has been a vocal advocate of the Automotive Brand Protection Coalition (ABPC), a group of car manufacturers that wants to rid the Middle East of fake auto parts.

Senior officials from Interpol and the automobile sector warn that the counterfeiting car parts industry is directly funding criminal groups.

The ABPC says its intelligence supplied by Interpol helped regional police to seize more than 300,000 counterfeit parts from April 2006 to April 2007. The organisation views this as just “the tip of the iceberg”.

The UAE Government has launched its own drive to safeguard the market by creating a new automotive authentication department. Called Tasjeel, the department examines parts such as brake pads, oil filters, maintenance-free batteries, air filters and fuel filters to ensure they are up to standard and are not counterfeit. Tasjeel’s reports are purchased by owners of second-hand vehicles and are used to give buyers assurance about the underlying condition of cars they might buy.


Labourer injured in fall at airport

SHARJAH - JUL 21:An Indian labourer BM miraculously survived but sustained severe injuries after falling from a 12-metre height while fitting electrical connections at the cargo section (3) of the Sharjah International Airport.

According to a Sharjah Police source, the labourer was attending to his work when he suddenly fell on the floor. He was immediately taken to the ICU unit at Al Kuwait hospital and is currently in a critical condition.

Sharjah Police confirmed that the labourer lost balance while completing his work that caused his fall on the floor.

He suffered multiple fractures on his back and arms and also internal bleeding.


Motorist suffers severe burns in road accident

SHARJAH - JUL 21:A motorist who was driving at a very high speed was completely burnt from the waist-up, in a tragic accident in Sharjah.

Sharjah Police received a report on Sunday regarding a GMC car that was seen burning after hitting a lamppost located on Emirates road right opposite Sharjah Tasjeel Village.

The Anjad Patrols, ambulance and the civil defense, immediately rushed to the accident site and carried the motorist out of the burning car.

The driver was unconscious at the time of the rescue and was suffering from severe burns, before being transported to Al Qassimi hospital.

An official at Sharjah Police confirmed that the motorist was highly speeding at the time of the accident while switching lanes.

"The car tire burns on the road assured us that the motorist was moving zigzag like on the road. The distance from the time of braking to the collision at the lampposts is over 55 meters, which means that he was driving at an exceedingly high speed, leading to the strong collision that resulted in burning the car and the lampposts."

Sharjah Police was also notified about a fire accident at a house in Al Qaraen area that resulted from a short circuit. Financial loss was incurred with no human injuries.

Sharjah Police is warning people against leaving their air conditioners operating for long hours particularly in the hot summer weather which usually leads to short circuits.


Increase in temperature predicted

UAE - JUL 21: SOURCES at National Center for Meteorology and earthquakes expect the weather to be generally hot on Monday.

Temperature is expected to go up by 2-3 degrees Celsius compared to Sunday.

It will jump to 44 degrees Celsius in Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah, 45 in Ajman and Umm Al Quwain, 46 in Sharjah, and 47 in Abu Dhabi while 48 in Al Ain.

Sources added that it will be sometimes dusty on some interior areas at daytime. Partially it will be cloudy on western and northern areas, with the probability of accumulative clouds on mountainous areas in the afternoon and the evening.

Wind is expected to be eastern to south-western, ranging between 5-10 knots late at night and in the early morning, while it will turn to north-western then to north-eastern ranging between 8-15 knots in the afternoon and the evening while sometimes reaches 18 knots stirring dust on the western interior areas.

Sources cleared that humidity is expected to decline compared to Sunday. It is expected to range between 65-80 per cent on coastal areas and on interior areas to become 45-65 per cent.

The sea will be sometimes mild to moderate. Waves will be at a height of1-2 feet on the coast and 2-3 feet in depth.


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