Port of Salalah is preparing to receive its first container vessel on Friday, June 1 — exactly a week after raging floodwaters unleashed by Cyclone Mekunu all but shut down the transshipment and logistics hub on Oman’s southern coast.
According to a high level official, efforts are also under way to get the port’s General Cargo Terminal (GCT) — the main gateway for mineral and other bulk commodity exports — into operation again.
“We have begun efforts to restart operations at the General Cargo Terminal, and also expect the first container vessel to arrive at the Container Terminal by Friday, June 1,” said Mohammed al Mashani, General Manager — Corporate Affairs, Port of Salalah. “We are working round the clock to get port services back on track,” he added.
Speaking to the Observer, Al Mashani said emergency crews were making “good” progress in tackling the significant disruption caused by flash floods that had inundated swathes of the port complex.
Runoff from wadis flooded upstream of Raysut, where the port is located, had swamped the hub, inundating buildings, electrical systems, equipment and other gear, said the General Manager. “This has posed a big challenge,” he noted.
Electrical and potable water supply to the port has remained disrupted as a result, impacting efforts to restore operations, he explained.
Asked for a provisional date by which port services are expected to be normalised, Al Mashani said: “We are starting with the Container Terminal by Friday, and we will gradually ‘ramp up’ from there.”
Adding to the challenges of returning port operations to normality is the threat posed to shipping and navigation from a number of dhows and other small crafts that had capsized in the harbour on the night Cyclone Mekunu made landfall on Dhofar’s coast.
The port is assessing the risks posed by these sunken boats with the assistance of surveyors before efforts are initiate to salvage them, the General Manager added.
Force Majeure — declared by the port on Monday — continues to be in force, with all marine and cargo operations having been suspended, effective from 1600 hrs (local time) on May 24, 2018.
Meanwhile, international shipping line MSC, which ranks among the largest in the world, announced on Tuesday the suspension of calls to Salalah.
Citing the devastation caused by the storm to Dhofar Governorate, MSC said it has been “forced to suspend its vessels’ calls” to Salalah Port. “Cargo destined for Salalah will be transshipped to other safe ports and is expected to be subsequently transported to Salalah, when port operations resume,” it added in a statement.
Shipping giant Maersk Line, part of AP Moller — Maersk Group — which is a 30 per cent shareholder in Salalah Port Services Co, said it had created a dedicated webpage to keep customers updated about developments in the resumption of services at Salalah Port.
It said: “On May 25, 2018 a cyclone known as Mekunu triggered a landfall in Salalah, Oman causing heavy flooding in the city. As a result of this, the Salalah Port is unfortunately under power outage causing all communication systems to be down. Given the situation, the port authorities have declared Force Majeure, and estimated operations to resume later this week.”
“We are in close contact with the port management and are working hard to resume business as soon as possible,” Maersk Line added.