Duqm, once a small, sleepy fishing town on the south-east coast of Oman, is today a busy, industrial place attracting investment and business from all corners of the globe. Oman has continued to focus its efforts on accelerating growth, with the target of decreasing dependence on income from oil and enhancing its labour skills, to comply with His Majesty Sultan Qaboos’ Vision 2020 Plan.
The objective of the strategy is to spread economic development around the country by investing in non-petroleum industries to diversify commerce formations, whilst also utilising the Sultanate’s vast natural resources and protecting its many distinctive forms of heritage. Yahia bin Said Al Jabri, chairman of the New Special Economic Zone at Duqm (SEZAD)
, highlights the importance of the work done and still being undertaken in Duqm.
“The SEZAD 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. Over the next five years we should have up to $8 billion of direct investment in Duqm,” said Al Jabri.
The Duqm SEZ is a model of an integrated economic development composed of eight zones with a land area of more than 1,777 km2. Other than the world-class port with dry dock facilities, Duqm will have a free trade zone, an industrial area, a refinery, a petrochemical plant, an airport, as well as residential and commercial facilities. “We have designated an area of 23 kmÇ for the new town, which will be the backbone of the development area and we have provisions to extend it to accommodate up to 67,000 residents by 2020,” said Al Jabri.
Duqm Refinery & Petrochemical Industries Company (DRPIC) is spearheading the development of a $6 billion giant refinery complex with a capacity of 230,000 barrels per day, which should be completed in the fourth quarter of 2017. The massive joint venture between Oman Oil Company and Abu Dhabi’s International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) is set to be the largest investment in Oman’s rapidly expanding industrial sector. It will also anchor an ambitious petrochemicals cluster envisaged in the later phases of Duqm’s development as an industrial hub.
The construction of a high-capacity gas pipeline from Saih Nihayada in central Oman to Duqm is one of the many initiatives undertaken by the government to accelerate industrial and regional development. Feasibility studies have recently been finalised and Oman Gas Company (OGC) is planning to build a 230km and 36-inch pipeline which will have the capacity of approximately 25 million cubic metres per day, providing sufficient supplies to fuel future power needs. The project is achieving the integral aim of feeding natural gas to the power generation, water purification projects and cement plant, as well as the refinery and petrochemical complex and feedstock in Duqm.
“As a key pillar, the infrastructure development plays a paramount role in determining the success of the SEZAD. Furthermore, our priority is to create an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 direct and indirect jobs in Duqm,” said Al Jabri.
In addition to this, the state-of-the-art port at Duqm plans to start exporting limestone for mining companies by 2013. The mining companies are in discussions with port authorities to potentially use the port’s bulk terminal to export their products worldwide, especially to India. There are large deposits of limestone around the port of Duqm and a geological study has identified two main areas with near endless quantities at Al Safiya, 15km west of the port, and Al Hydaybah, 20km south of the port. According to Reggy Vermeulen, commercial director of Port of Duqm, some companies are even in talks to process limestone and other minerals at the near by industrial zone.
With the creation of such an expansive project, an efficient transport network is a must to link Duqm to other locations in Oman, and to the rest of the world.
“A high standard arterial road network is under implementation to link Duqm with all major towns and cities in Oman, and also with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The airport is scheduled to open in 2014,
accommodating 500,000 passengers per year and also cargo. Further development of the Duqm SEZ will also benefit from the planned rail network,” said Al Jabri.
Tourism is another market the SEZAD will look to explore. With the opening of the new airport and the plans to build hotels and commercial facilities, the vision for Duqm is to transform it into a hub for everyone.
“Once completed, Duqm will be one of the largest industrial free zones in the world. This area will act as a catalyst for the urbanisation and commercialisation of the Al Wusta region and it is expected to play a major role in diversifying the Omani economy and creating jobs,” concluded Al Jabri.