Salalah Free Zone (SFZ) – the Sultanate’s first free zone development — plans to bring into operation 10 new factories and industrial ventures before the end of this year, further strengthening its reputation as a major draw for industrial and economic investment.
The free zone, adjoining Salalah’s transhipment and logistics hub overlooking the Indian Ocean, has announced a flurry of new investments since the start of this year, many of which have now entered the construction phase.
Announcing an uptick in activity at the nation’s oldest free zone, Ali Mohammed Tabouk, CEO, said: “Business in Salalah Free Zone is booming, with more than five factories currently under construction at a good pace. We are targeting the operation of 10 new factories before the end of 2020,” he tweeted on Saturday, adding that the Free Zone is “sparing no effort in achieving its top priority of creating job opportunities for citizens”.
Gearing up to commence production is Magnificence Tech of Asia (FZ) LLC, which is setting up a bus assembly plant at the free zone with an investment of $50 million. The company is targeting the production and roll-out of around 1,000 coaches per annum for distribution across markets in the Gulf, Middle East and Africa. It will be the second such investment in the Sultanate, after Oman’s maiden bus assembly plant by Karwa Motors, which is currently under construction at Duqm Special Economic Zone.
Also making headway is the Knowledge Academy – a training hub designed and equipped to develop the technical and vocational skills of up to 1,000 young Omanis at any given time. At full capacity, the Academy will be operated by a 160-strong faculty of trainers and administrative staff. Total investment in the facility, promoted by Muscat-based Oman Technology Establishment, is around RO 10 million.
In the early stages of construction is Salalah International Exhibitions City – an integrated wholesale hub that will leverage, on the one hand, its proximity to Salalah City – a rapidly expanding urban destination – and a well-connected international maritime gateway.
At full build, the Exhibitions City will host as many as 2,000 commercial units that will be offered for wholesale trading in a variety of goods and activities, including building materials, electronics, vehicles, textiles, furniture, consumer goods, and luxury items. As many as 1,500 job opportunities will be created when it is fully operational.
Work on the Free Zone’s first large-scale metallurgical plant is gathering pace as well. National Steel Company, backed by a Saudi corporation, is investing $500 million in an integrated steel complex that will produce around 25,000 tons per year of steel structures, 60,000 tons per year of prefab metal structures, 2 million sq metres per year of sandwich paneling for industrial structures, and 10,000 tons per year of industrial floors. Roughly two-thirds of this output is destined for overseas markets.
Among the major ventures targeted for launch this year is Philex Pharmaceuticals, which is being developed in three phases with a total investment of $365 million. The high-tech facility, backed by Qatari investors, will produce an array of drugs and vaccines as well.
Other initiatives that the Free Zone plans to launch this year is a mammoth, integrated residential city with a capacity to accommodate around `100,000 people, remotely operated ‘smart’ warehouses, and renewable energy projects.