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Special Economic Zone Authority at Duqm

Interview - March 8, 2012
Duqm, once a sleepy fishing town, is now the focus of attention thanks to the SEZ (currently under development) and the newly renovated Duqm Port. Thousands of jobs and myriad industries will help boost the area’s economy. His Excellency Yahia bin Said bin Abdullah Al-Jabri, Chairman of the Special Economic Zone Authority at Duqm (SEZAD), highlights the world-class infrastructure, the high standards demanded of investors, and the zone’s competitive advantages
On October 30, 2011 you were appointed Chairman of Special Economic Zone Authority at Duqm (SEZAD), which is currently the most important development project in the country. What does this Special Economic Zone (SEZ) mean to Oman?

The SEZ at Duqm is a very important project for Oman and it has been created in order to contribute to the country’s GDP, as well as to help in the creation of employment for the Omani people and to boost the social and economic development of the area. This is a SEZ with world-class infrastructure and all the necessary facilities, and in the long-term we expect it to have a significant impact on our efforts to diversify Oman’s economy in line with the Vision 2020.
Such a large-scale project presents a unique set of challenges. No one can do this by themselves and our authority collaborates with all the ministries in the Cabinet. By working together we can achieve great things and develop something of which everyone involved can be proud.

What type of industry do you want to see located in the Duqm SEZ and what role will foreign direct investment play in its development?

There are numerous investment opportunities in Duqm. If you see the master plan, you’ll see that over the next five years we should have 6 to 8 billion USD of direct investment. The Government will focus more on the infrastructure. The Government of Oman, and His Majesty in particular, is concerned with the environment. We envisage deploying renewable energy solutions for our energy needs. Ultimately we will create an environment built on clean technologies.
If you see the master plan for this area, the heavy industries will be located in the northern end of the Zone, whilst the new Duqm city sea resorts will be further south. There will be hotels, including one which will be completed in March or April 2012. We currently have a 4-star floating hotel (a converted ship) at the port with 208 rooms available, and Crown Plaza Hotel is now construction. It’s expected to be ready before the end of this year.
We have applications coming in, but we want serious investors. We do not just want the investors to come and ask for the land. We want them to come in with feasibility studies first, so that we can establish if their long-term goals are beneficial for Oman, and then we will allocate the land accordingly. We have seen petrochemicals investors coming in, and water desalination investors as well, and investors are talking about commercial centers. We have people interested in education and tourism as well. We will need to start marketing the area, but before, we are developing the infrastructure in place.

What employment opportunities will SEZAD bring to the people of the area?

We are going to create direct and indirect jobs in Duqm. We will ensure that the companies working in the area will give opportunities to Omanis by training them. We need well-trained people working with us, but we also do not want to impose a high ratio of “Omanization”. I think we can start in some places with a requirement for as little as 10%. We have seen good signs already, for example the Dry Dock was supposed to start with only 90 Omanis, but we have seen 350 positions filled by local workers, which is a very positive development. We are asking the company to give us their Omanization plan so we can see how they will train and add value to the economy as a whole.

Please elaborate on the world-class infrastructure and technology that will be available at Duqm SEZ?

As a key pillar, the infrastructure development plays a paramount role in determining the success of the development in this SEZ. Therefore, the government’s intention is to have world-class infrastructure and the best available technologies on the market. This has already been demonstrated via the modern standards of infrastructure built in Duqm port, especially in the dry dock and port facilities.

In 2006, the Omani Government established the Oman Drydock Company (ODC) in Duqm to develop and diversify heavy industries in Oman. ODC secured a total of 1.3 million square meters in Duqm and is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities including two docks for Ultra Large Crude Carrier (ULCC) class, five quays 2,800 meters long, 14 units of Jib Cranes and Slop & Sludge treatment facility, including slop tanks to store 10,000 cubic meters. In addition, we have five working shops – Pipe & Outfitting, Electric Shop, Machinery Shop, Hull Shop, Blasting & Painting Shop and Cryogenic Shop – all facilitated with modern and high tech materials. ODC’s vast area is also ready to serve, not only ship repair and conversion but also fabrication of any kind of offshore structure in the Middle East area such as platform module, jacket and wellhead.

In early 2000, the Government of Oman embarked on a visionary project to create a new port in Duqm. In 2007, the Ministry of Transport and Communications started to build the first phase of the port. In 2010, the Port of Duqm Company (PDC) was created as a joint venture between the government of Oman and Antwerp Port to co-invest, operate and manage the port and industrial zone.

The infrastructure of Duqm Port is constructed according to top line infrastructure technology. The port has two breakwaters of a total length of 8.6 kilometers and the depth varies from 10 to 19 meters. The total length of commercial berth is 2.25 kilometers. This is a multipurpose handling facility as part of the phase one commercial development in the port. This entire infrastructure will enable the port to receive world-class and new generation ships.

In addition, infrastructures such as buildings, roads, warehouses, electricity, water, and sewage are designed to be world-class in terms of operational capacity, productivity and stability. The Duqm port is designed and supervised by the well-known Royal Haskoning & Khastib & Alami (JV) Company.

The marine services will also provide a high standard of services in terms of pilotage, towing, and emergency response services. The port pilots will be trained on advanced courses and simulator. PDC will also manage the Port’s Industrial Zone at Duqm. It will bring first-rate infrastructure and technology to the industrial zone. It will also provide modern services in terms of utilities networks inside this industrial zone.
The project in Duqm will see the creation of a new “Duqm Town” which will cater for the needs of over 50,000 residents. What facilities will be in place in this new town?

We have designated an area of 23 square kilometers for the new town at Duqm. This will be the backbone of the development area and we have provisions to extend it to accommodate up to 67,000 residents. This new town will be a sustainable community, a model of contemporary urban planning with due respect to Omani culture and the local environment. This area will act as a catalyst for the urbanization and commercialization of the Al Wusta region.

Could you give us some insights into the plan for an Integrated Fisheries and Industrial Cluster?

As you know, the Arabian Sea is rich with marine life and resources. There is a quantity of fish and a diverse stock, which includes the very popular Omani crustaceans, all of which are in great demand with our Gulf neighbors and in Europe. Efforts are being made to exploit this comparative advantage of Duqm’s traditional affinity to fishing activities and developing an integrated vision of a fishing sector in the northern part of Duqm.
We plan on developing a new fishing harbor with a depth of 6 meters, with all the facilities required to accommodate small and medium sized fishing boats. There will be retail, wholesale, and export markets and we plan to set aside enough land area to house fish processing, canning, fish oil, and animal feed industries.
In line with the Government’s Vision 2020 plan to diversify the economy, we will also provide the space for fish and shrimp farming, a training center and extension services to provide the local fishermen with the latest techniques. All this will operate alongside a marine research center and all will be completed to the highest international standards and a quality assurance center for fresh and processed fish exports.
We have allocated 365 square kilometers for industrial and logistics use. A Master Industrial Strategy has been prepared targeting petrochemicals, building materials, minerals and inorganic chemicals, fishery and aquaculture, food manufacturing, clean technologies, life sciences, and allied businesses.
The location of the area near both the port and the airport makes it an ideal place to establish and expand industrial and commercial enterprises. Additionally, Duqm’s proximity to the promising Asian market, the GCC countries, Iran, Iraq, and East Africa, allied with its strategic location outside the Straits of Hormuz, significantly increases its industrial potential.

With the creation of the new Duqm Industrial Zone, an efficient and well planned transport network is a must. What will Duqm provide in terms of accessibility?

A high-standard arterial road network is under implementation to link Duqm with all major towns and cities in Oman, as well as to connect Duqm with the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. A balance amongst different modes of transport must be obtained to ensure mobility, security and safety while reducing noise and air pollution.
The airport is scheduled to open in 2014 and will provide both domestic and international flights. The capacity of the new airport is about 500,000 passengers per year. The airport will accommodate both cargo and passenger traffic.
Future development of the Duqm SEZ will benefit the planned rail network, which will connect Duqm to Muscat, and onwards to the UAE and other GCC nations, thereby creating a multimodal transport system in and around Duqm.

What are the specific competitive advantages of the SEZ at Duqm compared with other Economic Zones in Oman, and elsewhere in the GCC region?

The Economic Zones are not in competition with each other; rather, the goal is for all of them to complement each other. By dedicating each zone a specific role, the Government can avoid a situation of rivalry and ensure that we continue on the Vision 2020 pathway.
In comparison to our GCC neighbors, Duqm enjoys an enviable strategic location, as most large international trade routes pass close to the port. The area surrounding Duqm is rich in natural resources such as oil, natural gas, minerals, and fish.

How are you going about marketing the SEZ at Duqm?

We are looking at appointing a special consultant who can give us the right advice. We are also looking at working together with other public authorities of Oman. We have signed concessions with the company that is operating the port, so they are going to promote Duqm as well.