Exports of gabbro aggregate and related quarry material from Sohar Port are expected to surge on the back of investments in new handling capacity as well as dedicated yard space for the temporary storage of this commodity. The move will be welcomed by Omani quarry operators, eager to tap into the booming gabbro export market presently centring on Qatar, hosts of the 2022 World Cup football championships. Multibillion-dollar construction contracts linked to the high-profile event are fuelling the demand for high-quality gabbro and other construction materials.
Aggregate handling capacity at Sohar Port’s General Cargo Terminal, operated by C Steinweg Oman, was boosted by 50 per cent to 600,000 tonnes/month, up from 400,000 tonnes/months previously. This capacity is set to be ramped up to one million tonnes/month before the end of this month, while yard space for the storage of the commodity has already been expanded by 30,000 square metres. A further expansion of 50,000 square metres is in the final planning stages.
Both initiatives will underpin efforts to position Sohar Port as a major distribution hub for gabbro and related construction material in the region, according to a top executive of the General Cargo Terminal.
“C Steinweg Oman has been able to deploy this new capability — both in terms of handling capacity and extra yard space — in record time in response to the requirements of the burgeoning gabbro export market,” said Arie Koppelaar, CEO, C Steinweg Oman. “Going forward, we expect to see stronger outflows of gabbro from our terminal, which in turn will open up new business and investment opportunities for Omani quarry operators and others along the supply chain. Job creation is an important spin-off as well.”
Speaking to the Observer, Koppelaar said the company has invested in a new 200-tonne capacity bulk-handling crane, which is set to be fully operational by around the middle of this month. This will allow for the accelerated loading of vessels and their quick turnaround — measures that will enhance the profitability of companies engaged in gabbro exports, he noted. While gabbro material of sizes ranging from 5–40 mm is being shipped from the General Cargo Terminal, shipments of sizes below 5 mm are being handled at the Vale terminal, which also serves the giant iron ore pelletising plant at Sohar Port.
Significantly, a number of major Omani quarry operators are already in business, supplying gabbro from quarries located within a radius of 50 kilometres from the port. Last month, an agreement was signed with the Hamdan Group, a quarry owner and building materials distributor — the latest in a flurry of contracts targeting the lucrative Qatar market. Smaller operators, however, would do well to band together to achieve the economies of scale necessary to be competitive in the growing gabbro export market, he pointed out. For its part, the port authority at Sohar Port and Freezone has thrown its weight behind C. Steinweg Oman’s efforts to boost gabbro exports from the Sultanate. A dedicated lane has been created to support the estimated 900 truck moves to and from the General Cargo Terminal every day, said Mark Geilenkirchen, CEO, Sohar Port and Freezone.
“We are delighted to have been able to extend every assistance and support to C. Steinweg Oman in the enhancement of its gabbro handling capabilities.
They have done an excellent job in moving so fast to make the necessary backend operational investments to be able to ramp up their throughput capacity so quickly. Sohar is not only adding a new commodity to its exports, it will also bolster our throughput volumes as well.”
The dedicated lane for trucks will ensure the smooth flow of heavy trucks through the port to unloading areas at the General Cargo
“Our goal is to ensure that the movement of large numbers of heavy trucks through the port is handled in a safe and efficient manner, in line with our strict road safety regulations in force at the port.
This is being achieved in coordination with the quarry owners, trucking companies, drivers and other stakeholders.” Geilenkerchen added.