ONE FOOT IN THE FUTURE

Oman 2019 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

SOHAR Port is on par with the world's major ports and is fast adopting sustainable practices in gearing up to become a model for present and upcoming ports.

Mark Geilenkirchen Jamal T. Aziz

What progress has been made on the development of phase one of SOHAR Port South?

MARK GEILENKIRCHEN Phase I of SOHAR Port South, which comprises 40ha, is well underway and we hope to have it completed by January 2019. One of our first partners in SOHAR Port South will be the French multinational integrated oil and gas company Total S.A., who will construct and operate an LNG plant that will be utilized for vessel bunkering. The unprecedented demand for this type of LNG plant is due to new global standards regarding vessel emissions that come into effect in 2020. The regulations mandate that vessels that operate using heavy fuel oil will either have to install expensive exhaust scrubbers to minimize emissions, or switch to a cleaner fuel alternative, of which LNG is the frontrunner. The new Total S.A. facility located at SOHAR Port South will be one of the few LNG bunkering destinations in the region. This will be a major drawcard for global shipping companies looking for LNG bunker services at an attractive rate.

How is SOHAR Port and Freezone diversifying its businesses?

MG SV Pittie's cotton yarn manufacturing plant and Liwa Plastics industries complex are significant investments at the port. Both facilities represent the continued diversification of SOHAR, and will individually generate tremendous opportunities for downstream activities in the textile and plastic sectors. We are actively working with our partner industries to identify the many possible downstream activities and subsequent opportunities, and are actively targeting related industries that can directly benefit from the many synergies and benefits offered at SOHAR.

What are the main benefits of operating the port and free zone as one entity?

MG In most cases, ports and free zones operate in competition with one another. In our case we do not. We come to an agreement together with the client and determine the best location for their business. We want companies to be set up and based in locations that are best suited for them, and that is a fairly unique proposition.

What is the competitive landscape like between Oman's different ports?

JAMAL AZIZ Currently, we cannot accommodate space for another refinery. However, there is a possibility of creating more area. The area could also be further developed to accommodate additional oil and gas businesses. In comparison to Duqm, we are approximately 10 years ahead in terms of available facilities.

How has being a part of ASYAD benefitted SOHAR Port?

MG There are a few aspects where we can benefit enormously from other industries. If we were to look at safety, HR, training, or getting our people into other industries, then it is extremely beneficial for our managers to spend a few years working at Oman Shipping Company before re-joining us. It enables them to gain extensive and new experiences from the customer-end of the port. The fact that we can speak on behalf of most of the logistics industries provides us with a better voice when communicating with the government.

What synergies are being most utilised between ASYAD's companies?

JA ASYAD is continuously committed to implementing Oman's Logistics Strategy 2040, under which there are four pillars: HR, technology, markets, and trade facilitation. We see the synergies between the pillars and executing them under the umbrella of ASYAD would be a better option than doing it singularly, enabling us to obtain quicker and more effective results.

What is your strategy to improve trade facilitation and technology?

MG If we look at businesses at the port, they can be improved by attracting more investment, since most of the country's imports and exports already come via SOHAR. Liwa Plastics, once fully operational, will result in a huge surge in our container volumes. At present, we want to link our industries so that the output of one industry can be used as raw material by another. We have a department that strategically looks into these possibilities and initiatives. Our primary objective is to attract new business and industry to generate more activity and create sustainable job opportunities.