Salalah Port has declared force majeure at its transshipment and logistics hub at Raysut in Dhofar Governorate, three days after Cyclone Mekunu unleashed havoc across large swathes of this popular summer tourist destination in the south of the country.
Force majeure allows a party to a contract to suspend or terminate the performance of its obligations when it is faced with circumstances beyond its control.
Events that can typically trigger force majeure declarations include extreme weather events like cyclones and flash flooding, natural disasters like earthquakes, prolonged power outages and energy supply disruptions, and so on.
“… Port of Salalah has invoked force majeure (provisions) effective from the day of Cyclone Mekunu,” said Saad Bait Nasib, Commercial Manager, in a message communicated yesterday to shipping lines, agents, freight forwarders and other port users.
In an earlier circular to the port community, officials warned that Salalah Port incurred “extensive” storm-related damage, which had effectively brought operations to a complete standstill at the maritime gateway.
“Port of Salalah suffered extensive damage from the recent cyclone Mekunu,” stated Saad Bait Nasib. “Recovery and salvage operations are ongoing and it is expected to take a minimum of 72 hours. Port of Salalah will keep you updated once the operations (are completed).”
However, speaking to the Observer, a top official said efforts are under way to bring some aspects of port services into operation within “24 hours” as part of a “gradual” process to return the gateway to full normality.
Underscoring efforts to restore operations at the port, a high-level delegation of government officials led by Dr Ahmed bin Mohammed al Futaisi, Minister of Transport and Communications, toured the facility and the adjoining Salalah Free Zone yesterday.
They reviewed the damage caused by the storm to the port in particular and discussed steps to address challenges in enabling a speedy resumption of regular operations.
Adding to the challenges of restoring services to pre-storm levels is the damage caused by the storm to roads providing access to the gateway. Flood waters triggered by Mekunu tore up large chunks of the paved surface along the Raysut section of the carriageway leading to the port. The carriageway represents the principal access route in and out of the port for the hundreds of trucks that ferry gypsum and limestone ores from quarries in Thamrait. The movement of container and other general cargo volumes between Salalah and Mazyouna Free Zone is likely to be impacted as well until the carriageway is made motorable again, it is pointed out.
Indian media, meanwhile, reported that four Indian-registered dhows — part of a large fleet of dhows that had taken shelter at the port for the duration of the storm — had capsized and sank in the harbour. No deaths were reported however.
All commercial vessels, however, had been transferred out of the port in advance of the storm as part of precautionary measures implemented by the port authorities. Also as part of those measures, heavy lifting equipment such as gantry cranes and reach-stackers were suitably secured, containers restacked at moderate levels, and hazardous cargoes moved to secure locations.