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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

Empty Quarter Road: New corridor for cross-border trade and tourism

New milestone: A fully equipped and staff checkpoint is now operational at the border between the Sultanate of Oman and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to facilitate the speedy and smooth flow of motorists and goods


BUSINESS REPORTER


The formal inauguration of the Empty Quarter Road connecting the Sultanate of Oman and the sisterly Kingdom of Saudi Arabia opens a chapter in trade, commerce, investment, travel and tourism between the two countries.


The opening of the 725km carriageway, which cuts through the desolate expanse of the Empty Quarter on the Sultanate of Oman’s western border with Saudi Arabia, came against the backdrop of the landmark visit of HRH Prince Mohammed bin Salman al Saud, Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.


Government dignitaries, business leaders and commentators on both sides welcomed the keenly awaited launch of this new border crossing for not only enhanced trade and economic relations, but also the movement of pilgrims, tourists and other travelers between the two friendly countries.


On Wednesday, the Royal Oman Police (ROP) announced that it has brought into operation the border crossing on the Sultanate of Oman’s side of the border. Fully equipped and staffed, the checkpoint is now geared to provide a full range of services to facilitate the movement of goods and people, while ensuring the speedy completion of travel procedures, such as passports and residence services.


The checkpoint is also equipped to provide the complete spectrum of customs services including customs clearance, inspection and scrutiny of exports and imports with the use of sophisticated scanning equipment – facilities aimed at facilitating fast and smooth flows of goods.


The Empty Quarter Road starts, on the Omani side, from the Ibri roundabout in Dhahirah Governorate and ends at the Empty Quarter checkpoint at the 161 km mark. It extends onward on the Saudi side to Batha intersection, around 564 km away.


As the shortest overland route between the two countries, the Empty Quarter highway will enable Omani exports to reach the rest of the world through the maritime gateways on the Red Sea, while also enabling Saudi exports to be shipped globally through Omani gateways on the Sea of Oman and the Arabian Sea.


Importantly, the new road link is expected to add to the investment appeal of a new industrial city under construction at Ibri in Al Dhahirah Governorate by the Public Establishment for Industrial Estates (Madayn).


In a statement, Eng Nasser bin Hamoud al Mabsali, Director General of Ibri Industrial City (Madayn), said the new manufacturing hub’s proximity to the Kingdom opens up promising opportunities for Saudi investors and business persons to set up operations in Ibri.


Ibri Industrial City, he further note, offers many incentives to attract investors, including an exemption from land lease rates for two years, with a further reduction for three years thereafter. Additionally, as a full-fledged industrial city, it will be suitably equipped to provide speedy approvals and facilitate other procedures, he noted.


In statements to Oman News Agency, a number of Omani businessmen and their Saudi counterparts hailed the opening of the Empty Quarter border crossing as giving new impetus to trade and investment exchange, as well as tourist traffic, between the two brotherly countries.


According to Eng Saeed bin Ali al Yahyai, Director of the Roads Department in Al Dhahirah Governorate, the Empty Quarter road is essentially a single carriageway with 3.65-metre wide lanes on either side and outer shoulders of 2.5 metres width. The 2.7km approach to the border crossing is a dual carriageway featuring a roundabout.


Eng Yousef bin Abdullah al Mujaini, Director of Projects Department at the Ministry of Transport, Communications and Information Technology, said the road has been designed according to the technical specifications approved by the Ministry. A dualisation of the road is envisioned in the future if traffic volumes pick up along this key corridor, he noted.


A representative of Khazaen Economic City said the new carriageway will also help channel Saudi investments into this logistics-centric destination in South Al Batinah Governorate, chiefly in the logistics, manufacturing, food processing, technology and trade sectors. (With inputs from ONA)


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