Oman Dry Port venture to give rise to ‘road trains’

MUSCAT, NOV 20 – Marafi, the wholly government owned provider of port operation and management services, says it envisions the potential for the deployment of ‘road trains’ — for the first time in Oman — linking the new Dry Port at Khazaen Economic City in South Al Batinah Governorate with the gateway Sohar Port in North Al Batinah Governorate. Road trains are primarily heavy trucks hauling two or more semi-trailers laden with shipping containers — a feature that contributes to greater efficiency in the transportation of cargoes and ultimately increased cost savings.

Speaking at a ceremony on Sunday to mark the establishment of Khazaen Dry Port Company — a new partnership that will develop and operate Oman’s first inland port — a top official of Marafi said the dry port initiative will open the way for the introduction of ‘road trains’ plying between Khazaen and Sohar Port. Marafi, a subsidiary of Asyad Group — the integrated logistics flagship of Oman — is a 50 per cent equity stake in Khazaen Dry Port Company. The other shareholders are Khimji Ramdas Shipping (30 per cent) and Al Madina Logistics (20 per cent).

“Perhaps we will use road trains in the future where, instead of carrying two 20-foot containers, we can go up to four containers, thereby reducing the cost of transportation — which is the main goal of the dry port,” said Dr Ahmed Mohammed al Abri, CEO. “We already have the infrastructure to allow for road trains to be used, as is the case in other Gulf countries,” he stated. Given Khazaen’s location adjoining the Batinah Expressway, road trains carrying multiple containers or other cargoes represent a cost-effective alternative to the present mode of transporting one 40-foot or two 20-foot containers per truck.

Furthermore, heavy cargo movement on the Batinah Highway will be predominantly diverted to the Expressway once the dry port is operational, it is hoped. Significantly, the new dry port venture will also open up new and sustainable business opportunities for transport companies and fleet owners, said Dr Al Abri.  “We are aiming to create a pool of trucks — not necessarily our own — but also others that meet certain standards. As we will be transferring cargoes between known destinations, we will need to better organise all traffic movement. For truck owners — individuals and companies — there will be much more stable business.”

He further added: “We are trying to eliminate unnecessary movements of trucks, which can have an impact on quality and safety. To this end, we hope to provide better service conditions for drivers, perhaps through training, upgrading and upskilling, better insurance coverage, and the organisation of trucking services, which will also have beneficial implications for the environment.”