Qatar said on Tuesday that a new $7.4 billion port would help to “break the shackles” of a three-month-old boycott of the gas-rich emirate by Arab states led by Saudi Arabia.

The Hamad Port, which began operating in December, is a major hub for imports to Qatar, hit by a land and air embargo by some of its most powerful neighbours.

“This is a gateway to break the shackles imposed on Qatar,” Qatari Transport Minister Jassim bin Saif Al-Sulaiti said in a speech during an inauguration ceremony for the port held Tuesday. “Nothing can stop us and our ambition,” he added.

In a relatively rare public appearance since the onset of the crisis, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani attended the inauguration but did not speak.

On June 5, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar, accusing it of bankrolling extremist groups and having close ties to Iran. Qatar denies the charges.

Tuesday's hour-long ceremony, broadcast live on Qatari television stations, included a band, acrobats and fireworks.

The ostentatious display was a clear signal of defiance to Qatar's neighbours after their suspension of economic and diplomatic relations with Doha.

Hamad will be Qatar's largest container port and will provide commercial access to some 150 countries, according to official reports.

These include links to regional ports in Oman and Kuwait, and more distant ports of call from Turkey to India and Pakistan.

Qatar previously relied on neighbouring Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for food imports. But as part of the sanctions, Saudi Arabia sealed its land border with Qatar. Turkey and Saudi Arabia's arch-rival Iran have since stepped in to help meet Qatar's food needs.

The Hamad Port is located on Qatar's south eastern coast, around an hour's drive from Doha.

It has a capacity of 1.7 million tonnes of general freight and 1m tonnes of grain, according to Mwani Qatar, the country's port management company.