TBY talks to HE Dr. Ahmed Mohammed Salem Al-Futaisi, Minister of Transport and Communications, on the future of logistics, public transport, and the aviation industry.

HE Dr. Ahmed Mohammed Salem Al-Futaisi
HE Dr. Ahmed Mohammed Salem Al-Futaisi has been the Minister of Transport and Communications since 2011. He previously worked as an Associate Professor at Sultan Qaboos University. He has a PhD in civil and environmental engineering from the University of California at Berkeley.

What is the ministry's vision for the Oman Global Logistics Group, and what will be its main responsibilities?

We have many companies working on logistics and transport, which are either 100% government-owned companies or partially government owned, and have established a holding company that has around 17 companies under it. We divided the holding company into certain categories such as ports and economic zones, some transport companies such as ferries, shipping companies, and some other support services. One major role of this group will be to look at the investments that the country needs in this sector, which will require examining KPIs to create profitable companies and elicit growth. We are expecting to see an improvement in our financial investments in these companies by integrating them and improving their financial status.

How will the ministry's move to grant two licenses to manage and operate local taxis help to increase the development of public transportation in Oman?

Taxis in Oman require a great deal of improvement, as they have not been regulated properly for many years. In 2016, we issued a new land transport law in the country. Using that law, we will start issuing regulations for taxis and impose certain rules and conditions for how drivers should operate. The next step is that we will create management companies to manage the taxi drivers. They still have their taxi license, but there will be a management company at the top that will regulate the systems such as meters, GPS, ordering service, credit card, and tracking systems based on certain fees.

What are some of the new capabilities that will come to Oman as a result of the country's airport projects in terms of increasing the national tourism and logistics capabilities?

Salalah Airport is now operational and we are expecting the airport construction in Muscat to finish at the end of 2016, with its full operation in 2017. In all of our airport projects, we are developing a complete airport in terms of cargo facilities, catering, and MRO. We are hoping that introducing modern facilities will grow our logistics business in Oman to be a hub for passengers, cargo, and possibly the maintenance of aircraft. We realize our infrastructure will require strong, state-of-the-art services in order to attract more airlines, and are floating tenders for international operators, such as introducing a second ground handler in the airport with Swiss Port. Oman Air itself is partnering with a company from the UK to improve its ground handling capabilities and along with a Singaporean company to develop its capabilities in cargo handling and operations. We are reforming Oman Air to have subsidiaries; right now, there is one company doing the flying, maintenance, cargo, and catering. We are seeking to have strong international partners in all of these areas to improve the quality of services provided in the new facilities.

How will a well-developed logistics sector in Oman help carry the country into its next stage of development?

The good thing about the logistics sector is that we have done a good job in setting up solid infrastructure over the past 40 years. We have three deep-sea ports and five good airports. We are trying to progress the railway project for the GCC, which will be a good addition to the country. In addition, other sectors that we want to develop for diversification, such as mining, depend on logistics. If we want to export our fisheries or agricultural products internationally, then we need good airports and warehouses to take the products worldwide. The same thing applies to industrial output and even tourism. Logistics is the enabler for all of these sectors and crucial to their success.