Strategy to boost Oman’s air cargo throughput to 700,000 tons by 2030

An array of Omani agencies spanning the aviation, shipping, logistics, customs and regulatory sectors are working in concert to achieving a trebling of the Sultanate’s airfreight volumes to around 700,000 tons per annum by 2030.

The ambitious goal, initiated in recent years preceding the current pandemic that has severely impacted aviation around the world, including Oman, is part of a strategic bid to position the Sultanate as a regional gateway for air cargo services.

The strategy calls for building a comprehensive ecosystem for air cargo services in the Sultanate, encompassing among other components, a freighter business, developing and upgrading temperature-controlled warehousing at key airports, boosting sea-air connectivity, introducing the concept of Airport Cities and Free Zones, and developing the air cargo capacities of domestic airports.

Stakeholders involved in the delivery of this strategic national goal include: Oman Aviation Group, Oman Airports, Oman Air, Oman Air SATS Cargo, Royal Oman Police Customs, and a number of local and international freight forwarders.

Enabling the fast-track delivery of this landmark initiative is the Implementation Support & Follow-up Unit (ISFU) of the Diwan of Royal Court, which has tasked with facilitating speedy, high-level approvals for projects that aid Oman’s economic diversification.

The underlying objective of the initiative is to take Oman’s fledgling air cargo industry global, says ISFU.  “In order to optimally globalise Omani air cargo, a system is required that holistically integrates all of the key entities involved in the sector. These include the information maintenance centre, safety and security, customer management, online booking, supplier management, e-shipping, product management, revenue management, flight management and revenue accounting. Primary goals of this initiative are also to build demand in order to support the air freighter sector; and design and construct the cold capacity extension,” the task force explained in its 2019 Annual Report published last week.

As part of several performance milestones identified for the delivery of this initiative, a study was commissioned to examine the introduction of freighter business model for boosting air cargo volumes in the Sultanate. The case study envisioned the possibility of ramping up national carrier Oman Air’s freighter capabilities to handle greater volumes of fishery, pharmaceutical and ecommerce volumes.

The strategy also moots a significant increase in the capacity of the Air Cargo Terminal at Muscat International Airport, currently estimated at 350,000 tons.  Investments in 150,000 tons of new temperature-controlled storage capacity, catering to fisheries, pharmaceuticals, vegetables and other perishables, are proposed to be made in this regard.

Importantly, the initiative calls for the development of a comprehensive Air Cargo Ecosystem in the Sultanate.  “This initiative aims to optimise the Sultanate’s current cargo operating model in order to boost air cargo volumes in Oman from the 250,000 mark achieved in 2019, to the 700,000-ton mark by 2030. With this in mind, the primary goals of the initiative are to promote and market the air cargo logistics sector, analyse and address sea-air gaps in the sector, and activate and increase regional airports volumes,” said ISFU in its latest report.

“The initiative also seeks to develop the airport gateways and exploit important business opportunities, implement revenue management systems, and enhance marketing and other potentials in Oman Air. A comprehensive marketing and promotional plan to enhance the international perception of Oman is also required,” the Unit further stated.

Integral to this vision are plans for the development of a first-of-its-kind Airport City at Muscat International Airport catering to investments in high-value light manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, foodstuff processing and air logistics services. The potential for stimulating air-cargo volumes at domestic airports at Sohar, Duqm and Salalah is being actively explored as well.