Can you give a brief update on progress made at the Port of Duqm?
Port of Duqm is a port which is under construction, and the year 2015 is crucial for two things. One, we are working on reducing the cost or burden of the port on the state economy and secondly, we are trying to generate as much growth and support for the Al Wusta region and the oil and gas industry that we can. In addition we are supporting SEZAD (Special Economic Zone Authority of Duqm), to launch several tenders to finish the construction of the first phase of the port of Duqm. The marine work of the Port of Duqm is finished we are using it intensively for cargo, but a lot still needs to be done to call it a state-of-the-art port.
What are the advantages that the Port of Duqm offers compared to other ports in the region?
Like all the other ports in Oman, it will offer the advantages of the strategic location of Oman, with regards to the GCC, India and Africa. This is one of the key factors in favour of the ports in Oman. In addition, the fact that the Port of Duqm is a true node for intermodal connection makes it very interesting. In terms of location, we have an airport that is less than 15 kms away, there is the port, the railway, once constructed will come inside the port and there is a road connection. So there are multiple means of transport and communication. The Port is at the heart of this mega development at Duqm, which makes it very attractive for the future.
Oman has done a functional segmentation of its ports, what role do you envisage for the Port of Duqm in future?
The country is busy realigning as to what is going to be the overall strategy of the country with regard to logistics for the future and we will be part of that effort. Right now, judging on what the role of the Port of Duqm is going to be is a bit early. We are presently focusing on project cargo to support the onshore oil and gas industry and also trying to start the flow of goods to reach the population of the Al Wusta region. In future we will be focusing on oil and gas, not just in terms of project cargo but also transporting the refined product, shipment and container business. The way the Port of Duqm has been conceived and planned, sky is the limit and we can do anything. The key is to work with the Omani government and to see that the Sultanate as a whole, with its three ports has an attractive offer towards the maritime market in the shipping industry to compete with the neighbouring countries.
Can you share timelines regarding the construction and operation of the Port and is there a fear about the drop in oil prices affecting the port?
The tenders that have been floated now should be completed by late 2017 or early 2018. We expect the phase one of the Port to be in full operation by 2018-2019. The government is committed to supporting Duqm and the Port. Presently, Oman’s economy is very dependent on oil, but once Duqm becomes fully operational, it will reduce the country’s dependence on hydrocarbons. Once you have an alternative source of revenue for the Sultanate, which Duqm is meant to provide, then during the next cyclical dip in oil prices, the impact will be cushioned.