FERRY GOOD

Oman 2016 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Mehdi Al Abduwani, CEO of National Ferries Company (NFC), on the development of services over 2015.

 Mehdi Al Abduwani
BIOGRAPHY
Mehdi Al Abduwani, the CEO of the NFC, holds postgraduate qualifications from the Netherlands and did courses in various economic disciplines. Besides maritime transport, his leadership expertise spans both the government and private sector as director general, chair, or member of the board of several entities in the domains of economic development, telecommunications, energy, IT, and finance.

How has NFC performed in terms of strengthening passenger numbers and developing its services during 2015?

This year has been a buzz of activity at NFC; we take immense pride to report, in its sixth year of successful operation, that we have achieved 90.79% service reliability. By the end of July 2015, the company achieved 97.14% punctuality in departure times as a demonstrated benchmark of operational excellence in performance. MV Shannah was adjudged “the best passenger" ferry and “best manufacturing model" in 2014 at a global level event by the Shipbuilding Magazine. Scheduled services to Dibba were launched in August 2014, serving as an important link between the Batinah and Musandam regions. During the first half of this year, NFC transported 81,356 passengers compared to 20,786 during the same period in 2014. Statistics also pointed out that 21,547 vehicles have been transported during the first half of 2015 compared to 3,106 vehicles during the same period in 2014. The company also shipped 2,589 tons of goods compared to 861 tons during the corresponding period last year. During the first half of 2015, NFC transported 66,712 passengers, or 82% of the total number of passengers, and 18,503 vehicles, or 85% of the total number of vehicles transported by NFC, through Shannah and Masirah. NFC successfully obtained the coveted ISO 9001-2008, ISO 10002-2004 certification in its commitment toward customer service and customer satisfaction standards benchmarking. On the human resources development front, we are pleased that we successfully trained and prepared our first batch of Omani Second Officers to appear for the COC examination by the Flag State and qualified the first batch of Omani Chief Officers in the history of NFC. In a major development in August 2015, NFC completed the construction of the advanced link-span project at Dibba port, which allows the company to provide vehicular transport through that port for the first time.

How successful was the practice ferry between Khasab and Qeshm, and what does this mean for the expansion of NFC services in the long term?

The outcome of the sea trial has been very positive in terms of our ability to operate this potential route in the near future. In view of the positive outcome of the negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 countries following the agreement reached in July 2015, we expect direct maritime trade between Oman and Iran to be a reality very soon. This would mean direct expansion in scheduled services and routes for NFC both in the near- and the long-term perspective. Subject to volumes and the underlying potential of multi-modal logistics among the maritime transit corridors of Ashgabat Convention Member States and CIS countries, there is a potential for Oman to have multiple ports of service to Iran.

What is the significance of the move of commercial activities from Port Sultan Qaboos in Muscat to Port Sohar for NFC, and what impact do you expect it to have on the maritime sector?

The transformation of Port Sultan Qaboos into a tourism-based, mixed-use waterfront destination provides opportunities for NFC in its future development and growth. Being the capital city, Muscat draws the bulk of tourists, thereby Port Sultan Qaboos is the natural choice for transformation to a tourism port or gateway.