Oman’s National Ferries to modernise fleet

MUSCAT, JUNE 22 – Wholly government-owned National Ferries Company (NFC) — part of Asyad Group — plans to modernise its fleet of coastal passenger and vehicle transportation ferries with the goal of making its operations more economical. NFC Chief Executive Officer Mehdi al Abduwani (pictured) said a blueprint for the modernisation of the diesel-powered catamaran-based coastal fleet has been approved. “We now have an approved strategy to replace the fleet with a new fleet at less cost,” the official stated during a ‘majlis’ hosted by Asyad Group — the Sultanate’s transportation and logistics flagship — last week.
Earlier, Asyad Group CEO Abdulrehman al Hatmi applauded National Ferries Company on its success in achieving cost reductions of around RO 500,000 annually over the last five years, while boosting Omanisation to 81 per cent across the company. “We are happy with the services provided by NFC and its support for the development of Omani seafarers and technical staff working on its ferries. Jobs in the maritime sector are not easy, given that seafarers have to spend a month at sea as part of their work. Despite these challenges, NFC has achieved a high per centage of Omanisation,” said Al Hatmi.
The fleet of seven ferries operated by NFC, which commenced coastal passenger and vehicle transportation services in 2008, currently connect the ports of Muscat, Khasab, Lima, Dibba, Shinas, Shannah and Masirah.
According to Al Abduwani, the Shannah — Masirah service, launched in 2014, continues to be well-patronised by, among others, local inhabitants moving between Masirah Island and the mainland at Shannah. NFC’s two ferryboats currently account for 45 per cent of the share of ferry services, although pitted against 9 to 12 privately operated ferries. This is a testament to the quality and reliability of services offered by NFC, he said.
In this regard, he called upon Asyad Group to rehabilitate the jetty at Shannah to enable NFC to offer a higher degree of services to local users, from the safety and operational standpoints.
Commenting on the outcome of NFC’s efforts to link Oman with ports in Iran under the Ashgabat Agreement, he said the company had commenced services on the Khasab — Bandar Abbas — Qeshm Island route, as well as the Muscat — Chabahar sector — all within the span of one year. However, in light of the poor uptake of the services, combined with other challenges faced by NFC, operations on the two routes have remained suspended, he said.
“We launched the services on the basis of economic feasibility studies, but the volume of passengers and traffic in general were not encouraging, so the operations have been stopped for more than a year now. Of course, if things improve, we shall look at resuming the services.”