Measures necessary to secure Salalah Port from storms

Having endured a pair of powerful storms over the last five months, the Port of Salalah will need to weigh longer-term measures to secure the transhipment and logistics hub from future weather-related disasters, a high-level executive has stressed.
Jesse Damsky, Chief Commercial Officer, said the maritime gateway, while suitably protected from threats from the sea — such as the long wave phenomenon witnessed during the khareef season — will need to address hazards such as flooding and wadi runoff emanating from the landside in the wake of deadly storms.
Speaking on the opening day of the Port Development Middle East Conference, which opened at the Sundus Rotana Muscat on Monday, Damsky said the havoc unleashed in particular by Cyclone Mekunu in May this year, was extraordinary for a port belonging to the APM Terminals network, of which the Port of Salalah is a part.
“This year, Port of Salalah was subject to two cyclones which were really unprecedented in the history of the port — or in Salalah. The first one, Mekunu, caused a significant amount of damage that was never before experienced by any of the APM terminals. It was the worst natural disaster impacting any port in the APM network,” said Damsky.
While the second storm, named Luban, largely spared the port from undue harm, both events have since prompted port authorities to look at measures designed to mitigate any impact from future storms, he explained.
“Based on events over the last two years, these storms are becoming more frequent and I think this is a concern that ports around the world, especially those facing open water and in flood prone areas, definitely need to spend more (looking at storm-related threats). From the commercial standpoint, we should also be looking at contracts and force majeure clauses — it is one of those things you think you will never have to exercise.” Port of Salalah, he pointed out, would need to work closely with the Omani government to explore, among other things, the possibility of rerouting wadis that unleashed a 2.2 metre-high deluge of floodwater into the port during Cyclone Mekunu.
Based on lessons learned from Mekunu, an evacuation was ordered on the eve of Tropical Storm Luban’s arrival, he said, although the storm eventually caused less damage to Salalah compared with Mekunu. Nevertheless, ports around the world need to “dust off their emergency response plans”, he warned.
Earlier this month, the port revealed that Cyclone Mekunu caused “extensive damage to port assets and business operations”. Silt deposited by overflowing wadis had limited the draft of vessels calling the port, while the sinking of unauthorised dhows continue to hinder operations at Berths 1, 30 and 31, an official said.