MUSCAT, JAN 28 – The Gulf region’s only ferroalloys based cluster is rapidly taking shape at Sohar Freezone with the potential to position Oman as a producer of metallic compounds used in the production of high-strength steel with extensive high-end industrial applications, according to a high-level official of the free zone. Jamal T Aziz, Chief Executive Officer, said Sohar Freezone, which adjoins the industrial and commercial gateway in Sohar, is gearing up to receive new investments in ferrochrome smelting capacity expansions as well as new value-adding ferroalloys.
“We have grown tremendously in terms of minerals and ferroalloys – one sector not seen anywhere in the Gulf outside of Sohar,” said Jamal. “Starting with ferrochrome industries, we will soon have one of the big investors, IndSil, planning to expand into silico-manganese production. There are (metallic compounds) that go into industries to produce high strength steel , which has a lot of applications. These investments will also employ a lot of people and create opportunities for downstream industries as well.” The CEO made the comments at an annual reception hosted by Sohar Port and Freezone for its growing community of investors, operators and service providers.
Al Tamman Indsil Ferrochrome LLC, a 50:50 joint venture of Muscat Overseas Group of the Sultanate and Indsil Group of India, currently operates a 75,000 metric tonnes per annum (mtpa) capacity ferrochrome smelter at Sohar Freezone. Oman-registered Gulf Mining Group, which also operates a 50,000 mtpa ferrochrome smelter at the free zone, is also weighing plans to set up the Sultanate’s first manganese ferroalloy smelter at Sohar. Manganese ferroalloys are primarily added to steel to increase its strength and toughness.
Last June, Safe Alloys, a Sohar Free Zone company, inked deals linked to the planned establishment of a low carbon ferrochrome production plant in the special economic zone. Capacity is envisioned at 16,500 mtpa of low carbon ferro chrome destined for markets in Europe, the United States, South Korea, Japan and India.
Low carbon ferro chrome is produced from chrome ore and lime and silicon metal and is used in many stainless steel industries and special steel, aerospace, oil and gas and automotive industries.
Speaking at the event, Jamal Aziz also noted that Sohar Port and Freezone had the singular record of registering year-on-year growth throughout its roughly 15-year operational existence. “To date, we haven’t had a single year with (negative) growth, possibly because Oman made the right decision of putting the port where it is today,” he said.
“SUHAR is proving to be a gateway port and as a good distribution centre to a very large consumer market around us. If you look at India, the GCC, and so on, we already have a lot of trade with these markets, and in the future, when the markets of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and so on, open up, they will offer a lot of opportunities in Suhar.”
Underpinning the port and free zone’s strong appeal, the CEO pointed out, is not only its location and modern infrastructure, but also its competitive regulatory framework. “For many investors, Suhar is not only a great place to be in Oman, but also because the cost of doing business is very competitive in other places around us.”