MUSCAT, JULY 9 – A contract for the construction of Oman’s first bus assembly plant — in the Special Economic Zone at Duqm — is expected to be awarded by September this year, according to project officials associated with this landmark venture.
The project is promoted by Karwa Motors — a strategic partnership between Qatar Transport, the national transport company in Qatar with a 70 per cent stake, and Oman Investment Fund (OIF), a sovereign wealth fund of the Sultanate of Oman, owning the balance 30 per cent. Project costs amount to $90 million in Phase 1, with total investment expected to triple to $270 million over the next two phases.
Yesterday, the project company invited interested contractors to get prequalified for the main contract — a multimillion dollar package which includes the construction of the main plant, offices, and associated infrastructure and utilities.
“We expect the prequalification process to take a couple of weeks, with a tender for the main contract likely to be floated before the end of this month. An award is anticipated by September 2018,” a project executive said.
The construction phase of the project comes just over six months since representatives from the joint venture partners, joined by government dignitaries from Oman and Qatar, participated in a high-profile cornerstone-laying ceremony in Duqm. The facility, which is coming up on a 220,000 sq metre site in Duqm SEZ, will be designed to assemble primarily coach buses, city buses and school buses tailored for the local and regional markets. Phase 1 however will be equipped primarily for welding, painting and assembly of buses and coaches. Production is initially envisioned at 1,000 units per annum of coach buses, city buses and school buses. This will be progressively ramped up to 3,000 units in stages in line with market demand.
Equipment and plant machinery is expected to come from China where the well-known bus manufacturer Higer is based. Suzhou-headquartered Higer, the technology partner for the Karwa Motors project, will supply Completely Knocked Down (CKD) units of the buses and coaches due to be assembled at the Duqm plant. Higer will also support the training of Omanis in various technical positions that will become available when the plant comes into operation in 2020. As construction work on the plant picks up pace, the SEZ Authority at Duqm (SEZAD) is optimistic that the project will attract investor interest in a range of ancillary industries linked to the venture.
Expected to proliferate all around the complex are manufacturing units supplying, among other parts, coach seats, locally manufactured auto batteries, glass sheets for the bus windows, and so on. Also promising is the potential for the local production and supply of air-conditioning units, floor materials, seat mats, and polymer-based parts for the interiors of the bus, according to officials.
Semac Oman, the local subsidiary of prominent Indian multidisciplinary design and engineering consultancy firm, Semac Consultants, has been appointed the Main Consultant for Civil Designs. China’s MMI Planning & Engineering Institute has been named Main Consultant for Factory Design and Operations. Leading Chinese bus-maker Higer is the Technology Partner and supplier of CKD units for the Karwa Motors project.
Commercial production of buses will commence by around Q2 2020.