Khazaen a logistics-centric economic city

Muscat: Khazaen, envisioned until recently as a multi-modal logistics hub, has been rejigged into an integrated economic city that embodies Oman’s aspirations to evolve into a top-rated global investment and logistics-friendly destination.

Spread over an area of 51 million sq metres near Barka at the intersection between the Muscat Expressway and Batinah Highway, the new hub will feature industrial, commercial and residential zones as well as a one-of-a-kind ‘dry port’.

Owned 100 per cent by the Omani governorate, Khazaen is a subsidiary of ASYAD Group, the holding company of the Omani government’s investments in seaports, free zones, cargo terminals, logistics parks and other transport and logistics infrastructure in the Sultanate.

Earlier this year, the joint venture of Oman Investment Corporation (OIC) and Saudi engineering contractor Mohammed Ali Al Swailem Group (MASCO) was named the Master Developer of the Khazaen Economic City. An agreement to this effect was signed by Dr Ahmed bin Mohammed al Futaisi, Minister of Transport and Communications, who is also Chairman of ASYAD Group.

Investment in Khazaen’s infrastructure development during the first phase is in excess of RO 300 million over the next 20 years. This is anticipated to rise to around RO 700 million over the 49-year-long tenure of the agreement with ASYAD Group.

A key feature of the Economic City is a first-of-its-kind dry port, for which an operator will be named shortly. The Master Developer is currently in discussion with logistics services providers for the selection of a suitable operator, potentially as a partnership of established service providers.

As an ‘inland port’, the facility will enjoy pre-clearance privileges, which allows for cargo to be cleared at Khazaen for direct delivery on board ships in Sohar Port. There will be a direct connection, with container and even bulk, shipped to Khazaen and vice-versa. Empty containers will be filled up and despatched directly to the port.

Saudi-based MASCO will play a key role in securing Khazaen’s long-term development. As the largest market in the GCC, Saudi Arabia offers major business opportunities for Oman. Once the road connecting Oman with Riyadh opens, Khazaen will provide an important link to the Saudi market.

Upgraded from a logistics hub into a full-fledged Economic City, Khazaen will cater to a wide range of business investments encompassing the following: Industries & Free Zones (manufacturing, packaging, assembly, repairs and maintenance activities); Logistics & Warehousing (retail warehousing, food stores, building materials, distribution, bulk handling and freight forwarding); Residential Zones (affordable housing projects, townhouses, staff lodgings, and so on); Businesses (commercial offices, banks, finance firms, IT and law offices); Social Infrastructure (schools, universities, hospitals, clinics, hotels and recreation facilities); and Retail & Entertainment (hypermarkets and supermarkets, auto dealerships, showrooms, and retail outlets).

Earlier this month, the Master Developer named UK-based multinational engineering and design consultancy Atkins as the lead planning and supervision provider for the Khazaen development. Atkins will undertake the integrated urban planning for the city, including carrying out environmental and sustainability assessments, along with engineering design for infrastructure and utilities and the preparation and evaluation of future construction tenders. It will then supervise the Phase 1 infrastructure implementation.

Altogether, the time-span for the completion of Phase 1 is set at 20 years, with further phases of the project expected to span many more decades to eventually become a fully integrated city.

The first priorities for Atkins – along with establishing a fruit and vegetables market and a building to serve as Khazaen headquarters – would be to complete the engineering and design work for the project’s Phase 1 logistics & industrial area and the central ‘first-of-its-kind’ inland port – which will connect road and rail freight directly with maritime shipping through the Sohar Port, and operate under a customs ‘pre-clearance’ model for immediate loading.