Oman’s Marafi eyes overseas markets as port operator

MUSCAT, JUNE 23 – Marafi, a subsidiary of ASYAD Group — the transportation and logistics flagship of the Sultanate of Oman — is keenly exploring opportunities to offer its burgeoning expertise in the operation and management of ports and harbour facilities to markets regionally and internationally. Established in 2016 as an Omani brand in the operation and management of ports, as well as a provider of specialist services in the operation of cargo terminals and the handling of vessels at berth, Marafi’s mandate now covers four local ports in the Sultanate — Mina Sultan Qaboos (Muscat), Khasab Port, Shinas Port and Suwaiq Port.
It has also signed contracts to develop and operate the nation’s first ‘dry port’ to be set up within Khazaen Economic City in Barka. Additionally, the outfit has signed a shareholder agreement with Qatar-based company Dolphin Integrated to develop an aggregates terminal at Sohar Port. Buoyed by this rapid growth in the Sultanate, the wholly government-owned entity has now set its sights on opportunities overseas, according to Marafi CEO Dr Ahmed al Abri (pictured).  “Given the position we have achieved thus far, which we had originally targeted to achieve in 4–5 years, our growth is quite an achievement,” said the official. “The company has not only earned the trust of customers, but we have also succeeded in establishing a strong platform in the Sultanate. We are now exploring the potential to pursue new projects.”
Speaking at a ‘majlis’ hosted by Asyad Group last week, Dr Al Abri said the company has now embarked on an energetic quest for opportunities overseas centring on the operation not only of ports, but also terminals, docks, marinas and related maritime infrastructure. He cited in this regard pledges of support from an Omani sovereign wealth fund.
Later in comments to the Observer, the CEO said the company hopes to snag its first overseas contract within the next five years.
Asyad Group CEO Abdulrehman al Hatmi added that Marafi’s aspiration to grow regionally and internationally has many dimensions. It hopes to achieve its objectives either via an M&A transaction, the acquisition of an international company, or the provision of services as a port operator through joint venture partnerships or subsidiaries set up overseas.
“All these options are under study, and we are working in general on all opportunities,” he stated.
Within Oman, Marafi is moving aggressively to develop the four ports under its operational jurisdiction with the goal of utilising their potential to support local and national economic development, said Dr Al Abri.
Shinas Port is proposed to be upgraded from a jetty into a modern harbour designed to attract medium-size, steel-hulled cargo ships in addition to dhow-based traffic. A new 300-metre quay will be incorporated into the port, which has a depth of -10 metres. Ample land around the facility is also available for private investment and development, he said.
Khasab Port, on the other hand, is proposed to be developed into a tourism hub broadly on the lines of the planned transformation of Mina Sultan Qaboos in Muscat into a cruise and waterfront destination. This will drive the growth of cruise traffic into Khasab, which in turn will enhance its appeal for tourism-related investment, he said.
“We are also close to finalising an agreement on the operation of Khazaen Dry Project in partnership with players in the local market. Marafi has the mandate the develop and operate the Dry Port,” he added.