Fujairah -- one of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates -- is growing in terms of strategic importance and is rapidly emerging as one of the Middle East's most important ports.
As the only emirate with a coastline solely on the Gulf of Oman, Fujairah has grown in stature as it continues to develop oil storage and processing capabilities.
Its third refinery became operational in June 2020, and a fourth is expected to come online later this year.
These facilities, along with the Abu Dhabi Crude Oil Pipeline (ADCOP) terminal, enable the UAE to reduce reliance on the Strait of Hormuz to transport and export oil without fear of Iranian threats.
"Fujairah is one of the most politically and strategically powerful emirates in the UAE, primarily due to its unique location near the Strait of Hormuz," said Khaled al-Zoubi, who lectures at Ajman University's College of Law.
It is a major hub for the receipt and storage of oil, he said, with more than half of the UAE's daily production of crude oil flowing through it.
Each day, al-Zoubi said, 1.5 million barrels of oil flow through the massive Abu Dhabi Crude Oil Pipeline, which was built to bypass the Strait of Hormuz and connects the Habshan field in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi with Fujairah.
"The UAE, in co-operation with the local government of the Emirate of Fujairah, is expanding the oil storage capacities in the emirate's port by at least 22 million barrels" via national companies such as ADNOC and Borouge, he added.
Fujairah, which gained recognition as an independent state in 1952 and formally joined the UAE in 1971, has played an important role in shipping and trade for more than 3,000 years, al-Zoubi said.
Today it is the world's second largest refueling port, he said, and is strengthened by many other resources such as tourism and a strong agricultural sector.
Countering Iranian threats
Fujairah is a "strong spearhead in countering Iranian threats to block the passage of international ships, container carriers and oil tankers through the Strait of Hormuz", said retired Emirati army officer Abdullah al-Ameri.
He pointed to the emirate's location on the Gulf of Oman, on the waterway that leads to the Arabian Gulf, and at the ADCOP pipeline terminal.
The ADCOP "is one of the most important pipelines for the transport of petroleum products, as it lies in its entirety, from its starting point to its end point, in UAE territory", al-Ameri said.
This helps the state protect the pipeline from threats that might affect the daily flow of oil, he said, noting that the high mountains that surround the port also offer it natural protection.
The expansion of Fujairah's petroleum storage capacity provides some protection against Iran's threats to close the Strait of Hormuz, through which a fifth of the world’s fuel and petroleum products pass, al-Ameri said.
The development of Fujairah is a model for countering security threats, namely Iranian threats to block maritime traffic in the Strait of Hormuz and delay the export of oil, according to Saudi military expert Mansour al-Shehri.
He noted that "there have been numerous security incidents related to attacks or threats by Iranian naval boats in the strait for more than three decades".
Other pipelines, including those that are not being used at full capacity at present, also could improve oil security, he noted.
If combined with new expansions, the Saudi Petroline, Abqaiq and Iraqi pipelines have enough unused capacity to provide reassurance for global oil supplies and prevent disruptions or price hikes because of security threats, he said.