Interview: Abdulaziz Saud Al Raisi
What recent measures has Oman taken to develop its logistics industry, and how have its performance metrics borne out that development?
ABDULAZIZ AL RAISI: Oman’s strategic location makes the country ideally placed to develop as a key transport centre in the Middle East. Expanded air connectivity and investments in domestic road infrastructure indicate that Oman is working hard to achieve its goal of doubling the number of jobs within the logistics sector by 2020. The freight transport at Muscat International Airport has increased by 24% in 2017 and cargo volumes exceeded 200,000 tonnes. If those goals are achieved, the logistics industry will become the second-largest contributor to the country’s economy after hydrocarbons.
The country also aspires to become a major global player in the logistics industry, and is developing its human resources accordingly. In order to educate the manpower necessary to do so, Oman is extending its full support to various academic institutions that can train and qualify a national logistics workforce.
How has the expansion at Muscat International Airport affected Oman Air’s growth strategy?
AL RAISI: The new terminal in Muscat will bring a wealth of new opportunities for both the tourism industry and Oman Air. The airport has the capacity to handle 12m passengers per annum (PPA), and further expansions have been planned in three subsequent phases, which will boost the airport’s capacity to 24m, 36m and, ultimately, 48m PPA. Its runway can accommodate the world’s largest aircraft, the Airbus A380, and enable independent parallel operations.
The airport offers a significant boost to the already flourishing transport and logistics industries and means that Oman Air can now provide an enhanced service from its capital hub. In 2018 we added five new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft and two Boeing 787-9s, with one more 787-9 scheduled to join the fleet before the end of 2018. We have also added three new destinations – Istanbul, Casablanca and Moscow – and relaunched our connection to the Maldives.
Our operations with the expanded fleet have gone well, and we can credit the new passenger terminal as one of the reasons. With the opening of this facility and the expansion of both the hotel segment and convention centre facilities, Oman has further grown into a sought-after destination in the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) segment. Oman Air has tie-ups with most of the service providers in the MICE industry, as well as with the Ministry of Tourism to promote inbound travel.
What is required to make Oman one of the top-10 countries in logistics performance by 2040?
AL RAISI: Continued investment in some of the initiatives already under way will be key to ensuring that Oman achieves its logistics goals in the long term. Among the initiatives that have contributed to the industry’s development are the establishment of border one stop shops for joint inspections, new rules for bonded warehouses, the authorised economic operator programme, pre-clearance of goods by Customs and risk-based import controls. Other initiatives include ongoing preparations to join the International Road Transportation Convention, the enhancement of public-private partnerships through focus groups and forums, and the formation of the Oman Logistics Association.
Plans have also been introduced for new and established academic, vocational and training institutions that can meet the growing need for logistics experts. Moreover, Oman is focused on establishing guidelines and systems that will make logistics an appealing profession for young Omanis. The sector’s performance has improved significantly in recent years, and was ranked 46th out of 146 economies in the World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index.
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