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Duqm bus project to spur auto parts investment opportunities


MUSCAT, DEC 6 - Investments in a wide array of automotive components and vehicle parts manufacturing plants are expected to pour into the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) at Duqm in the wake of the launch of Oman’s first bus manufacturing project, the cornerstone for which was laid last week. According to officials, the joint Omani-Qatari backed Karwa Motors bus manufacturing venture will create opportunities for local small businesses and vendors to set up ancillary plants dedicated to the manufacture of spare parts for the Sultanate’s maiden bus project as well as future automotive investments envisioned in the SEZ.

“While Karwa Motors will initially commence operations with the assembly of buses and coaches arriving in Duqm as complete-knocked-down (CKD) units, over time our plant will evolve into a full-fledged manufacturing complex, supported by ancillary plants run by vendors,” an official said. “At that point in time, there will be a substantive localisation component to the project, with local businesses and SMEs playing a key role in supplying all kinds of parts for our buses and coaches.”

Expected to mushroom around the Karwa Motors complex, and elsewhere around the SEZ, are plants that will manufacture and supply, among other things, seating and upholstery, auto batteries, glass sheets for the bus windows, and so on, the official said.

“We also see potential for the local production and supply of floor materials, seat mats, and polymer-based parts for the interiors of the bus. The assembly of air-conditioning units and other vehicle parts is promising as well.”

While the laying of the cornerstone stone was celebrated at the project site last week, actual construction work on the main plant and associated facilities is expected to commence only by mid-2018. Tendering for the main construction contract is expected to kick off early in 2018. Commercial production of buses will commence by around the second quarter of 2020.

Semac Oman, the local subsidiary of prominent Indian multidisciplinary design and engineering consultancy firm, Semac Consultants, has been appointed the Main Consultant for Civil Designs. China’s MMI Planning & Engineering Institute has been named Main Consultant for Factory Design and Operations. Leading Chinese bus-maker Higer is the Technology Partner and supplier of CKD units for the Karwa Motors project.

Production is envisioned at around 1,000 buses and coaches at the end of Phase 1 of the project’s development, rising to 3,000 units in future phases depending on market demand. Buses will range in 8 to 12 metre lengths and will be targeted primarily at schools, commuter transport, staff transport, and related uses.

Conrad Prabhu

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