Work on $1bn waterfront could start before year-end

MUSCAT, MAY 8 –
Construction work on the estimated $1 billion Mina Sultan Qaboos Waterfront development in Muscat is expected to commence before the end of the year, subject, of course, to the requisite approvals and permits coming through in a timely fashion, according to a top official of Omran, the wholly government-owned tourism investment and development arm.
Peter Walichnowski (pictured), CEO — Omran, said its joint venture partner in the project, Dubai-based DAMAC International, is in charge of delivering the iconic integrated tourism port and lifestyle destination.
“They have finalised their draft master plan, and are in the process of obtaining an (Integrated Tourism Complex) ITC licence from the Ministry of Tourism — which may take a few months. But for DAMAC to really start (construction work), it means getting the licences and approvals in place, which is on the side of the government to arrange. Hopefully, if everything goes well, we’ll see some activity on site before the end of this year,” Walichnowski added in the comments to the Observer.
Last June, Omran and DAMAC International joined hands in a landmark pact to transform Muscat’s existing Mina Sultan Qaboos port into a sumptuous waterfront development featuring an amalgam of high-end hotels, residences, as well as dining, retail, leisure and community facilities. Total investment in the project was estimated at the time at $1 billion.
Contrary to concerns voiced by some local representatives of international cruise liners, the redeveloped waterfront will continue to cater to visiting passenger ships, among other types of yachts, sailboats and leisure crafts, according to the CEO.
“There is no change to the port’s cruise ship strategy,” said Walichnowski.  “Whatever ships that used to come in the past will come in the future as well. There is no change in the configuration. The cruise industry will continue as it was in the past. We have got to make in the planning allowances for the berthing of the cruise ships, the security, customs and all those sorts of things. And it’s going to be a fully operational cruise port.”
Importantly, the partnership is also exploring the potential for the redeveloped waterfront to serve as a homeport for visiting cruise ships — a feature that would allow for ships to start and conclude their voyages in Muscat. Among other benefits, homeporting encourages cruise passengers to spend part of their holiday in the city, either at the start or end of their voyage, thereby injecting more tourist dollars into the local economy.
“It’s a discussion point,” said the CEO when asked about prospects for the development of a homeport in Muscat.
“We raised it with DAMAC as an opportunity for the project. The facilities required are more than they currently exist. So this is now in the investigation stage to see if it is feasible. DAMAC is very supportive of boosting the tourism sector for the port, Muscat and for Oman, because it’s in their interest to do it. DAMAC will do everything feasible to cooperate in helping with the tourism industry.”
Also under consideration is the possible retention of the huge gantry cranes as a symbol of the port’s history as a commercial gateway. “The architects think that the gantry cranes might be an iconic feature to leave behind. So we might see a couple of them strategically integrated into the development, to remind people about the history of the port. So they may or may not be in the final project,” Walichnowski added.