780 modern boats to bolster Sultanate’s fishing fleet

MUSCAT, April 23 – The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has invited young Omanis to be part of an ambitious initiative that will see as many as 783 new artisanal, coastal and commercial fishing vessels being added to the nation’s fishing fleet over the next four years. The objective is not only to help Omani job-seekers pursue rewarding livelihoods as fishermen, but also to build the capability of the fisheries sector to achieve an aggregate output 1.3 million tonnes of fish products per annum by the year 2023. The initiative was launched at the ministry’s headquarters in Al Khuwair on Monday under the auspices of Dr Hamad bin Said al Oufi, Under-Secretary of the ministry.

Interested Omani individuals can apply to be part of the landmark initiative as investors and licensees. Applications will be received over a month-long timeframe extending from May 1 to June 3, 2018. Only Omani candidates who are unemployed or entirely dependent on fishing for their livelihoods are eligible to participate for this project, which will also entitle them to enrol in the relevant pension fund and insurance system. The move is part of a wider effort by the ministry to support the development of artisanal, coastal and commercial fishing activities in the Sultanate, designed to create as many as 4,000 new employment and livelihood opportunities for Omanis by 2023. As a result, the sector’s contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to balloon to around RO 740 million by this year.

Dr Al Oufi (pictured) said the initiative broadly encompasses a number of recommendations that came out of the ‘Fisheries Labs’ hosted as part of Tanfeedh (The National Programme for Enhancing Economic Diversification). As many as 90 projects and investment proposals, spanning the commercial fishing, aquaculture and fish processing segments of the industry, were mooted for implementation by the private sector as part of the Tanfeedh programme. Significantly, investments by the private sector in the fisheries related ventures are projected to exceed RO 1 billion over the next four years, the under-secretary said.

Tracing the growth of the fisheries sector, Dr Al Oufi said that fish production was estimated at 348,000 tonnes in 2017, representing a remarkable 24 per cent over the corresponding figure for 2016. This output was roughly valued at RO 227 million, which was 12 per cent higher than corresponding figure for 2016. Further, in an effort to bolster the artisanal fishing segment of the industry, the ministry plans to make available as many as 270 modern artisanal fishing boats as part of the initiatives, the under-secretary said. Fitted out with the latest navigation, safety and resource location equipment, these boats are designed to enhance the catch on each sailing, as well as zero in commercially valuable fishery resources.

Onboard accommodation, refrigerated storage rooms, and modern fish harvesting gear will allow for the vessels to remain out at sea for more than three days. Also envisaged is a plan to introduce 480 coastal fishing vessels designed to remain at sea for several weeks at a time. Featuring a storage capacity of about 300 tonnes, these medium-sized vessels can discharge their harvests at any of the 23 harbours located along the coastline of the Sultanate. The boats will be designed and built to specs spelt out by the ministry, notably in terms of their length, fishing and navigational capabilities, capacity, and on-board fishing gear. Around 110 coastal vessels are currently in operation in the Sultanate.
Also as part of the initiatives, licences will be issued for the launch of 33 new commercial fishing vessels that will operate far from the coastline while targeting resources at depths beyond the reach of artisanal and coastal crafts. Fitted out with state-of-the-art fishing system, these modern ships can speed weeks and months at sea either within Oman’s Exclusive Economic Zone or in authorised international waters. Satellite communications will allow for these vessels to stay connected with land or sea-based communications networks. High-tech resource location hardware will enable the ship to pinpoint high-value fish species. Long-line fishing gear will also enable the targeting of tuna and other surface species.
The overall project is expected to fuel investment in fish processing and value-add industries, while also support the creation of direct and indirect employment across the fishing, processing, logistics and related sectors, Dr Al Oufi added.

Zainab al Nassri