TBY talks to Lee Chee Khian, CEO of Duqm Special Economic Zone Authority (SEZAD), on the five-year plan, massive construction projects, and future developments.

 Lee Chee Khian
Lee Chee Khian has trained in civil engineering, law and finance, and has 40 years of experience in the development of industrial township, infrastructure, and industrial facilities and amenities. He started work in Singapore in the development Jurong Industrial Park, before joining the private sector with a German company in power generation, transmission, distribution, and industrial automation like baggage handling, automated kitchen, and warehousing in ASEAN and Asia Pacific. In 1997, he was with JTC International in the overseas investing in industrial park in Suzhou, Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, and India, which includes development of the industrial park, infrastructure, power plant, water plant, and so on.

With logistics listed as a key sector in the ninth five-year plan, what advancements have taken place over the past year in logistics and what are some future plans for SEZAD?

If Oman continues to work toward creating an active manufacturing sector and starts to produce, export, and import, then there is room for real growth. There needs to be a hinterland of manufacturing to get raw materials from the outside and produce from inside; therefore, there must be a framework for flow of goods going both ways. In two years, the seaport infrastructure will be complete, and we also have an airport. We have an ambitious plan to create not just a normal container, bulk area port, but also have a liquid terminal where oil and gas finished products will be exported. There will also be a storage area for the oil and gas so that the ships can have their water, food, and fuel supply while loading and unloading. We have a dry dock to provide repair and maintenance services for them.

What benefits does the construction of the massive oil storage facility offer for Sezad?

Regarding the massive oil storage tank, it is important for us to be able store oil because it cannot always simply be extracted from the ground and supplied to the customer. Crude oil demand is very seasonal; at any certain point, there may be low or high demand. This oil storage space will allow us to regulate our capacity and will put us in a key position. In the south of Duqm, there is a 200 million-barrel storage unit, which is owned by the Oman Oil Company. That place was selected as it is a natural harbor, 32m deep draft, a natural height that allows gravity to put the oil into the vessels cost effectively.

What are some of the plans currently in place for the USD10 billion China-Oman industrial park in Duqm?

We are planning that project according to the resources we have. The first phase is for solar panels, tubular pipes. Some industries in this venture need gas, so we are going to plan the phasing of the investment based on gas availability. It will be a five- to seven-year plan for the overall investment. The investment from China is a bit different because it is also responsible for providing the infrastructure itself. We gave it a piece of land and it will do the infrastructure and factory construction within the next year. When the gas pipes come there will be a need for a chemical refinery and petrochemical plant, so that will depend on the oil storage and the Duqm authorities.

What are the details of SEZAD's plan to develop a fishing port?

Fishing is a long and sustainable industry in Oman and enjoys rich resources along a very long coastline. We not only have the fishing vessels for the fishery port, but we will also have a food-processing center. When the fish are caught, we want to process rather than sell raw, so that we can create some added value. Furthermore, the airport will be finished soon, and we will be able to export fresh fish to the market.

What is your outlook for SEZAD over the next 12 months of business?

SEZAD is subject to the world economy, and the investors coming here are looking for access to markets all around the region. Iran is a market that we cannot ignore, but people are still cautious. Additionally, oil prices are very low, everyone is adjusting to new budgets, and the supply and demand curve will shift. All of this will have an impact on the market and investors will react accordingly. It is a challenging time, and the whole world economy is not doing very well, but there are bright spots and we have to look at long-term prospects.