CRITICAL PILLAR

Oman 2020 | TRANSPORT & AVIATION | INTERVIEW

The Port of Salalah has proven to be successful in the region largely due to its geographic location, excellent connectivity, and competitive costs.

Mark Hardiman
BIOGRAPHY

Mark Hardiman has 23 years of experience in shipping and ports, having worked in five different countries across three continents. He has been influential in driving growth and enhancing business performance across various functions, including operations, IT, and technical services. During these years, he has demonstrated his wide range of industry experience by implementing performance enhancements to operations and worked to further develop strategies with key port stakeholders.

What were some of the major highlights in 2019, and how are you working to increase the attractiveness of Salalah as a transport and logistics hub?
2019 was one of the most exciting years in the history of the port. The year saw a journey of recovery from the devastating Cyclone Mekunu in 2018 and handling of an all-time record in both general cargo and the container terminal of the port. The general cargo terminal handled 16.27 million MT and the container terminal handled 4.1 million TEUs in the year. Despite significant overcapacity in the region, the port recovered all its volumes that were re-directed to other ports in the region after the cyclone in less than a year. This also demonstrates the confidence and the continued support that Port of Salalah enjoys from the government and its customers. In 2019, Port of Salalah has also committed to significant incremental capital expenditure as part of its asset replacement and capacity augmentation program. On the operating environment, the port also achieved numerous milestones in productivity and as part of its digital transformation and successfully deployed our terminal operating system (TOS), which forms the backbone of its container terminal operations. Also, all equipment purchased by the port have advanced features that not only allow for better synergy with the terminal operating system but also reduce the overall life cycle cost of the equipment and are environmentally friendly in terms of lower emissions and lower fuel consumption. Moreover, we also recently joined the TradeLens platform, which is a blockchain-enabled digital shipping platform, where nearly half of the world's ocean container cargo is available.

What is your assessment on the logistic industry in Oman, and what role can Salalah play in enhancing its competitiveness?
Logistics is a critical pillar of the economic diversification initiative of the Sultanate of Oman, and Port of Salalah is expected to play a crucial role in this diversification strategy. In this sense, the port is already working with other stakeholders of the Salalah hub such as Salalah Free Zone, Salalah Airport, Mazyunah Free Zone, and Madayn to attract and anchor a diverse range of industries that leverage the location, unparalleled connectivity of Salalah, and competitive cost. We also act as a corridor for neighboring countries for aid and relief while simultaneously providing businesses in North Oman with significantly faster transit times to their key markets. This also increases the overall competitiveness of Omani companies globally. We are working with key stakeholders to replicate the hub concept that has successfully transformed Salalah into a container transshipment hub to other industries that allow for wider market penetration and diversification using Salalah as their hub.

How are you seeking to grow your general cargo and liquid cargo business?
Limestone and gypsum have been historically drivers for volume growth in the general cargo terminal. We are now focused on improving the overall productivity for handling these volumes and providing a competitive edge to the mining companies in Salalah. Simultaneously, a number of concepts are being tested to facilitate further diversification of commodities and customers in the general cargo terminal. Liquid cargo is presently one of the smaller segments of the cargo portfolio of SPS and contributes to about 13% of the total volumes. We will soon start the development of a tank terminal in Salalah to facilitate growth of the liquid business, since we see a huge potential in this segment. There are a number of ongoing developments like the Salalah LPG project and ammonia project that will substantially increase the liquid footprint of Salalah. In addition, the Central Service Corridor for the pipe rack is expected to be operational by mid 2020. There has been great interest from a number of companies to set up tank facilities in the free zone and use the port as a gateway via the common pipe rack. We also see strong interest in offering bunkering at Salalah both by barges and by trucks.