Maritime capacity undergoing expansion in Oman

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Oman is strengthening its maritime cargo-handling capacity and support services through a series of new investments, reinforcing its credentials as a regional logistics hub.

Oman Maritime

In late July Marafi, a subsidiary of state-owned transport holding company Asyad, announced it had signed a memorandum of understanding to develop and operate a new dry cargo port at Khazaen Economic City (KEC), 60 km north of the capital Muscat.

Marafi will establish a special purpose vehicle with various private sector logistics firms to develop and operate the port, which in turn will help ease congestion and increase the flow of cargo between ships and major land transport networks.

While it is not yet clear when the project will break ground, Marafi and KEC have agreed to complete due diligence and obtain official approval for the project by the end of this year.

KEC will be the first location in the country to host dry port facilities. The 51m-sq-km site, which is being developed as an integrated logistics hub, has already built up an extensive transport network, including road, rail and aviation links, to serve the port.

In addition to port and storage infrastructure, KEC will host light and medium industry, and residential, retail and hospitality facilities.

The port is the second major project announced by Marafi recently. In late May the company unveiled plans to develop and operate a mineral aggregate terminal at Sohar Port, on the Gulf of Oman, in the country’s north.

Working in partnership with Sohar Port and Free Zone, Marafi will develop the terminal and associated stockpile areas, which will cover 200,000 sq metres, with the facility to be operational by early 2020.

As a temporary measure, a 100,000-sq-metre aggregate storage and loading facility will be established at an existing terminal, with mobile loading capacity of 750 tonnes per hour. Shipping is due to begin later this year.

Salalah port to build agri-products terminal

Cargo-handling capacity is also being increased and diversified at the Port of Salalah, in the south of the country. The port, which currently serves as the main container trans-shipment facility, is opening up to bulk freight handling via the commissioning of a new agri-products terminal.

Being developed by Arabian Sea Port Services, a joint venture of Spanish logistics firm Algeposa, and local firms Oasis Development and Al Thabat Holding, the terminal has a grain-handling capacity of 15,000 tonnes per day and storage facilities for 60,000 tonnes of grain.

The second phase of the project, currently in the planning stage, foresees a doubling of throughput capacity.

The Salalah expansion process is offering opportunities for equipment and services providers. In June port authorities awarded a $6.5m contract to Northern Ireland firm Telestack for the provision of multipurpose ship-loading equipment. In particular, the equipment will be used to transfer limestone and gypsum, key products of Oman’s mining sector, with the machinery scheduled to be operational by the fourth quarter.

Expanding maritime support services network

Oman is also moving to increase the scope of its shipping support services segment in order to strengthen its appeal as a maritime and logistics hub, through additional handling, technical and supply links.

In late July the Oman Drydock Company, a Duqm-based maritime repair, maintenance and construction firm, announced a major long-term expansion programme.

The range of activities undertaken by the company will be expanded from three to 11 by 2040, the company’s CEO, Said bin Hamoud al Ma’awali, told local media, potentially lifting turnover to $500m a year.

Working in partnership with the private sector, Oman Drydock will move beyond its core repair and maintenance operations, and into the construction and repair of offshore oil platforms, shipbuilding and conversion, production of steel structures for use in the energy industry and specialised repair of naval vessels.

In the shorter term, the company intends to start building both ships and oil platforms by 2020, while also ramping up its repair and maintenance operations, with a view to servicing up to 200 vessels annually by 2021.

The maritime services segment will also be boosted by the development of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) bunkering facility at Sohar, a project announced in mid-May by French energy firm Total.

As part of a broader agreement between the government and partner Shell to develop several natural gas discoveries in the Greater Barik area of northern Oman, Total issued a statement saying it would use its equity gas entitlement as feedstock for a project to help make Oman a regional centre for LNG bunkering for marine vessels.

The energy major plans to build a small-scale modular liquefaction plant in Sohar Port comprising a train of around 1m tonnes per year.

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