Ports & shipping: Changing the landscape

Redevelopment and expansion programmes are at different stages of planning and implementation in the Sultanate’s four major ports – Muscat, Duqm, Sohar and Salalah

APL Logistics

Development of port infrastructure, fishing harbours and shipping services is part of a large scheme to encourage transshipment and strengthen non-oil revenues. Redevelopment and expansion programmes are at different stages of planning and implementation in the Sultanate’s four major ports – Muscat, Duqm, Sohar and Salalah. All these expansion programmes are aimed at repositioning the country as a major transshipment hub, besides attracting investment from within the country and outside.

The first phase of redevelopment of Muscat port has already been launched to make it an exclusive tourism port, which will have cruise terminals and waterfront projects. Phase one of the integrated mixed-use waterfront destination is projected to be completed by 2020, and will transform the current commercial Port Sultan Qaboos area into a major tourism-based development, spanning 64-hectares area. The Mina Al Sultan Qaboos Waterfront will include business and residential zones, destination mall, six hotels (including three-, four- and five-stars), recreation amenities and docking facilities for cruiseliners and yachts.The development will take place over four separate phases. The master development plan was conceptualised in 2015, with significant inputs received from private sector investors, who are keen to capitalise on the tourism and hospitality opportunities presented by the mega waterfront scheme.

Of late, all remaining major works of Duqm port has been awarded to contracting firms for completion within three years. These projects include a major liquid berth, container terminal, main port office building, gates, and associated facilities. As many as four terminals will be built, including two container facilities, with a quay length of 1,600 meters, capable of handling up to 3.5 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) a year. The project also include a dry bulk terminal with a capacity of around 5 million tonnes a year and a multi-purpose terminal to handle 800,000 tonnes per annum.

Duqm port, which partially started operation few years ago, has a 2.2-kilometre-long commercial quay. The commercial quay is divided into three main areas – 300 metres of cargo terminal, 1.6-km of container terminal and 300 metres for a break bulk terminal.The complete work for a fully-fledged operation of the port is expected sometime early 2020. Plans are also afoot to further expand the container terminal at Sohar port. Oman government is working on a plan to build a large modern automated container terminal at Sohar Port, which will have a capacity to handle five million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) per annum.

The basic infrastructure for the proposed terminal will be developed by the government, while the superstructure will be built by the container terminal operator – Oman International Container Terminal (OITC). The current container handling capacity of Sohar is around 2 million TEUs and the port’s actual annual container handling is close to the capacity. The expansion will take the total container handling capacity to seven million TEUs per year, once it is ready. Apart from organic growth, the relocation of all commercial traffic from Muscat a couple of years ago is a driver for recent peaks in cargo volumes, especially in containers.

Salalah port, the largest container terminal and transhipment hub in Oman, also plans to expand its capacity to meet the long-term demand. The Sultanate’s government is also developing eight more fishing harbours of varying sizes with a sizable investment as part of a comprehensive plan to strengthen the fisheries sector.

Apart from developing port facilities, the government is also keen to build a strong national shipping line. The state-owned Oman Shipping Company (OSC) has taken delivery of two MR tankers last year, making its fleet at 50 vessels. The two tankers are the seventh and eighth tankers of the Silver Project, which is executed by OSC with Shell International to build 10 medium-sized with capacity of 50,000 DWT each. The shipping company has succeeded in strengthening its position in the maritime transport markets over the past few years. OSC earlier signed an agreement with Shell International to provide it with 10 ships to transport oil derivatives. Shell rents these ships for up to 10 years in order to operate in the global market.
As many as 60 per cent of the company’s tankers are under long-term contracts ranging from 15 to 20 years with large international companies, and reputable local companies, such as Oman LNG and Oman Oil Refineries and Petroleum Industries (Orpic) Oman Trading International (OTI), Salalah Methanol Company, Oman Vale Company, and Sohar Aluminium, while the rest of the company’s tankers are rented out on a daily basis via the spot market.

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