Out of a quiet fishing village about 350 miles south of Muscat, a tremendous, record-breaking project is taking shape. Once finished, Duqm will be the new home of a deep-sea port, a fishery harbour, a refinery, a petrochemical plant, an international airport, a tourist resort and an enlarged city, complete with all the necessary and desired social infrastructure for 100,000 residents.
Entrusted with converting this greenfield site into a wonder for investors, workers and visitors alike is the Duqm Special Economic Zone Authority (SEZAD). “We are capitalising on the strategic location of Duqm and the potential of the zone to anchor investments in the industrial, logistics and tourism sectors,” says Yahya Al Jabri, Chairman of SEZAD.
|The world’s largest vessels can drop anchor in Oman’s ports, thanks to their deep draughts, and international port management experts are advising on the latest IT and smooth operation solutions
Khalil Ahmed Al Salmi, Deputy CEO of Oman Drydock Company (ODC), enthuses about the fact that the entire area is being built from scratch. “This is a greenfield site; whatever you can imagine can be done. It is available for any opportunity.”
The first enterprise to be up and running was ODC – an impressive ship repair yard, which in its first two years of operation already worked on 120 ships. Indeed, ODC is one of the largest and most modern of its kind in the Middle East, and Mr Al Salmi forecasts that soon ODC will be able to handle upwards of 200 ships each year.
The world’s largest vessels can drop anchor in Duqm, thanks to its deep draughts (water depth at commercial berths is 18 metres). As a matter of fact, all of Oman’s ports share this quality, something that Peter Broers, former CEO and appointed General Manager of Industrial Land at Port of Duqm Company in September 2013, names as one of the main factors behind the country’s success.
The government sought out experts in port management to help boost its infrastructure and operations.
“For the Port of Sohar, the government selected the Port of Rotterdam and for the Port of Salalah, Oman cooperates with the container technology company APMT, which is connected to Maersk. For Duqm, the Omani Government invited the Port of Antwerp to manage the port and since 2011 the Port of Duqm Company has existed,” explains Mr Broers.
He adds that each port has its own unique strength: “Duqm will be the best option for the heavy and petrochemical industry and its related cargo.”
Expertise from the Belgian port will be evident throughout the port’s operations, yet perhaps none as apparent as the computerised system. “Today it is important to bring in IT systems for paperless operations. This idea is quite new in the region, although it has been developed in European ports and used for decades,” says Mr Broers.
Although the port infrastructure is still under development, commercial operations are already under way.
Located in the Wusta Governorate, the Port of Duqm – which is expected to generate some 15,000 direct jobs – will provide a logical gateway for the hinterland’s hydrocarbons and mineral resources, such as limestone, silicate sand, dolomite and basalt, among others. Smart investors would tap into these minerals to develop new industries, like cement and glass, to add further value.
New roads and railways will ensure that Duqm is well connected, not only to the rest of Oman, but also to the Arabian Peninsula. The airport, due to be finished by 2015, will have capacity for half a million passengers per year.