UP & AWAY

Oman 2017 | TRANSPORT & LOGISTICS | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Dr. Mohammed Bin Nasser Al-Zaabi, CEO of Public Authority for Civil Aviation (PACA), on the sector's role in the ninth Five-Year Plan, the Gulf's increasing demand for ground handling services, and expectations for the year ahead.

HE Dr. Mohammed Bin Nasser Al-Zaabi
BIOGRAPHY
HE Dr. Mohammed Bin Nasser Al-Zaabi has more than 22 years of experience in multi-disciplinary functions ranging from project management, financial and contractual management, strategic planning, budgeting, and more in different fields of constriction, engineering, and corporate affairs. He has a degree in quantity surveying and a master’s in projects management. He also has a PhD in privatizing government services.

Oman's ninth Five-Year Plan has made infrastructure and tourism significant priorities, and air travel is crucial to both of those ventures. What role will PACA play in the plan?

The Sultanate of Oman has focused largely on diversifying the economy and sources of income away from oil revenues, and certainly tourism and logistics are two of the most important sectors the country counts on to achieve its diversification objectives. The aviation sector is one of the most significant players in the logistics sector and the development of this sector in the form required permits to accommodate large numbers of tourists to the country, with the integration of other tourist services, of course, as the aviation industry was given great attention by the government during the current Five-Year Development Plan complements the last five-year plan and what has been done of projects carried out for the development of the civil aviation sector. It goes without saying that the civil aviation sector is an important feeder for the national economy and adds a lot of value on other related sectors, especially during this period in which we are witnessing the finical difficulties. In order to capitalize on these major developments in the civil aviation sector, PACA will endeavor to market the new airports by means of negotiating more traffic rights and new airlines to attract more passengers and cargo to the Sultanate.

The market for aircraft maintenance in the Gulf is increasingly significant. The same is true of cargo handling. How are these opportunities being capitalized on?

We have recently embarked on an initiative of encouraging competition not only in airlines services, but also in airport services, especially ground handling services. A second license was awarded last year to Swissport in addition to allowing another license for a second strategic partnership between Oman Air and Menzies. The aim has been to improve the quality of ground handling services. As for aircraft maintenance, the government is investing a large amount of money in building a state-of-the-art maintenance, repair, and overhaul facility and we hope that RFPs are floated soon to interested investors in other airports.

What impact will the new airport have on the Omani air travel market?

There will be a significant and positive effect based on what was planned when the government embarked on its construction. The new airport will receive more than 20 million passengers per annum, a figure that was arrived at by examining the growth of the aviation sector around the world. According to statistics, Oman's airspace is one of the most congested in the Middle East, and there is an increase in air traffic and flights to and from Muscat airport in the coming period, in which the Sultanate is looking to open up wider fields of investment and the development of the logistics sector.

What are your expectations and plans for the year ahead?

PACA is currently focusing on the separation of service providers, namely air navigation and meteorology services. We will concentrate on our core business as a regulator and hence the authority will remain the only source for the legislator of the laws and regulations of aviation in the Sultanate. This in fact is considered as a huge step in the history of civil aviation in the country and will support the growth of the aviation sector. This year will also see the re-sectorization of the Omani airspace from five to seven sectors to cater for the growth of overflying traffic and to provide a better quality of air navigation services. It is also expected and indeed all the efforts are now exerted to operate the Muscat International Airport terminal before the end of 2017. We also hope that the Duqm airport project will be complete by the end of the year.