MUSCAT, DEC 5 – Galvanised by planned investments in automotive projects at the adjoining Special Economic Zone (SEZ), Port of Duqm says it is moving to develop Roll-on/Roll-off (RO-RO) terminal infrastructure designed to cater not only to local auto industries, but also to potentially position the maritime gateway as an auto distribution and trans-shipment hub in the region.
The announcement came at a ceremony held at the SEZ last week to celebrate the laying of the cornerstone for Oman’s first bus manufacturing plant promoted by Karwa Motors, a joint partnership of Omani and Qatari investors.
The facility, envisaging an output of 1,000 buses per annum in Phase 1 ramping up to 3,000 buses at full build-out, will be constructed in close proximity to the port.
In remarks to journalists on the sidelines of the cornerstone-laying ceremony, Reggy Vermeulen — CEO of Port of Duqm, said the port will be investing in the requisite infrastructure to facilitate the import of materials, as well as the export of the finished products, associated with automotive ventures coming up at the Duqm SEZ.
“We will have a dedicated RO-RO terminal coming up at the port for the benefit of Karwa Motors, the first bus manufacturer in the region,” said Vermuelen. “Port of Duqm is also working to tap into the car distribution network for the entire region. Towards this end, we are looking to attract feeder lines and mainlines of car carriers coming to Duqm. This will enable us to ship Karwa buses to surrounding markets in the GCC, as well as to India and Africa.”
The new RO-RO Terminal, which will adjoin the port’s Container Terminals, will also cater to exports of cars and automotive vehicles manufactured by other ventures planned at the SEZ. Iran’s Khodro Group (IKCO) and the Oman Investment Fund (OIF), a sovereign wealth fund of the Sultanate, have signed agreements to set up a car manufacturing facility in Duqm. Initial output is planned at the rate of 10,000 cars per annum.
“Thus, in addition to Karwa Motors, there are discussions with other car manufacturers to come to Duqm. Besides, we are not ruling out car trans-shipment possibilities at Duqm,” Vermeulen stated.
Construction, meanwhile, is continuing apace on a number of projects that will position Duqm as a multipurpose port, according to the CEO. Included in multiple packages of contracts under way at the gateway are the Gate Complex, ROP Customs Complex, Liquid Berth, superstructure of the terminal buildings, and utilities. All of these projects are slated for completion by the end of 2019 or early 2020, he said.
Additionally, the port is gearing up to take delivery of the massive quantities of project cargo that will shipped to Duqm ahead of the start of construction work on the estimated $6 billion greenfield complex of Duqm Refinery later next year. “We are working with the planners of the refinery project to make sure we not only have the equipment and manpower in place, but also the laydown area for this merchandise,” Vermeulen said.
Ship movements and cargo throughput have also almost doubled this year, compared with figures for 2017, on the back on surging imports of Oil & Gas equipment, OCTG oilfield pipes, and other project cargo, he said.
The uptick in throughput activity at the port is also translating into a stronger uptake of leased land at the Industrial and Logistics zones that fall within the port’s concession. “We have seen a significant number of hectares of land being leased in the Logistics Zone this year, the big boost coming in the wake of Petroleum Development Oman’s (PDO) decision to ship all of its OCTG oilfield pipes via Duqm on a long-term basis. (Local logistics firm) MEST has leased land at Duqm for this project. Likewise, a number of companies serving the Port of Duqm and the Duqm SEZ are leasing land in the Industrial Zone to service their contracts, be it in connection with the Duqm Refinery project, cement plant, and so on.”