Oman 2015 | DUQM | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Rien Van de Ven, CEO of the Port of Duqm, on how the port is set to transform the dynamics of the Indian Ocean shipping industry, and the potential for value-added exports.

Rien Van de Ven
As an experienced and professionally trained marine expert, Rien Van de Ven has worked in the fields of marine construction, dredging, port services and management, offshore, and energy-related activities at all levels of operations and management in Europe, Latin America, the US, the Far and Middle East, CIS region, and Africa.

Reaching almost $2 billion in investment, the Port of Duqm is a joint venture between Antwerp Port and the local government. What is the importance of this partnership?

Knowledge, and the exchange of knowledge, is crucial. To work, the Port of Duqm requires people and organizations that are knowledgeable of this kind of industry. The Port of Antwerp has teamed up with the government, and is the best partner since it has enormous experience in trade—it is a major European port. Once a port is built, you need to make it work; once the port was ready, we made a concession agreement between the owner of the port and the Port of Duqm. It was a concession agreement set up between the government and the Port of Duqm. The Port of Duqm is a 50-50 cooperation between the Ministry of Transport and Communications and the Consortium Port of Antwerp. Once that partnership was established, the concession agreement was made, and the agreement was to develop the Port of Duqm into a working, active port.

How will Duqm reshape and redefine the logistics scenario not only of the country itself but also of the entire region?

The potential of Duqm is enormous for several reasons. The most important aspect is its location. Duqm is well located in the new geopolitical center point of the world, the Indian Ocean, which is where all the streams of trade cross each other between East and West. I am not only talking about trade between China and Europe; a lot of trade will shift to the Indian Ocean. Sometimes, people say Duqm has no hinterlands so it is not directly a good container port. I agree with that. It is not a container port to supply Riyadh or Muscat. It is too far away for that. But, of course, a lot of container traffic is hub traffic, i.e. traffic that is just partly unloaded and transshipped to other places; but, also into the country itself, including the Wusta region, the Port of Duqm can be of importance. The Wusta region is by far the richest region in the country. It has a lot of energy and minerals. Minerals are also crucial to Duqm. There are lots of minerals—especially calcite and dolomite—that can be pretreated and then exported. Added-value products are very important for the economy of this country; within a circle of about 300 kilometers, nearly all the energy and the mineral richness of this country can be found. Automatically, that brings in Duqm as a center point. Railroads for Duqm are important; transport by rail is relatively cheap and we need cheap transport because it is a large country. If you serve the users of your product then transport is key.

What do you do to promote the port in the international arena?

The geopolitical heavy point of the Indian Ocean already attracts the political interests of certain countries. As soon as you are important, then politics starts to look at you. We are regularly visited by several navies, and not only the navies of the US, the UK, and France, but also the navies of the UAE and Saudi Arabia. When they have a joint exercise they come all the way to that area of the Indian Ocean where Duqm is. They come back to Duqm as their base point. That does not mean that Duqm is a military base; it is used as a service point. For us, that is important because it attracts business; the navies need fuel, so it attracts a lot of other activities. A Belgian delegation headed by HRH Princess Astrid visited Duqm. The visit itself was very valuable because, along with the Princess, a trainload of officials rolled in; 70% of the delegation was made up of business people from Belgium, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. These people came because it was an excellent opportunity to get the right information about Duqm.