Oman officially opened Duqm Port on Friday as it seeks to diversify its economy and expand its infrastructure.
The project — which is being developed in partnership with the Belgium’s Port of Antwerp — was opened in the presence of the Belgium’s King Philippe and Queen Mathilde, who arrived in Oman for a three-day trip on Thursday.
Duqm Port is a “major driver” of the projects under the Oman 2040 vision, Ahmed Al Dheeb, deputy chairman of the Public Authority for Special Economic Zones and Free Zones, said at the opening, the Oman News Agency reported.
The port is a “qualitative leap” towards improving the competitiveness of the sultanate and is an “important addition to integration with the country's multiple ports due to its geographical location, which is planned to be a logistical centre serving international shipping lines between Asia and Europe”, he said in his speech.
A greenfield project, the port is part of the Special Economic Zone Authority of Duqm that was established to help diversify the sultanate’s economy. It is being developed as an integrated, multimodal logistics centre, with maritime links, a road network, an airport and a railway system.
The government is hoping that its strategic geopolitical position — as an alternate route to the Strait of Hormuz — will support the port’s attractiveness for international trade and for all cargo destined for major inland projects and oil and gas concession areas within Oman.
Duqm port has also received major investments from China in recent years. Oman Wanfang, a consortium of Chinese companies, pledged to invest about $10.7 billion to develop the Duqm free zone in 2016. Groundbreaking at the site began a year later.
The port consists of three main berths: the commercial berth, the government berth and the liquid materials berth. The total length of the breakwaters is about 8.7 kilometres, the depth of the port basin reaches 18 metres and the entry channel is 19 metres, enabling the port to receive extremely large container and oil ships, Mr Al Dheeb said.
The project includes the supply of four automated cranes, with a capacity of up to 65 tonnes, to transport containers from ships to the commercial berth and back. It also includes the purchase of 12 bridge yard cranes with rubber tires that have a capacity of up to 41 tonnes.
The work on supplying and installing container cranes and bridge cranes is currently 60 per cent complete and is expected to be fully done in the first quarter of 2023, the official said.
The port has handled 2,242 ships during the past three years, moving to “making profits in the early stages of its operation”, said Abdul Rahman Al Hatmi, chief executive of Asyad Group, which is also involved in the development of the port.
“The readiness of Duqm Port will also contribute to attracting foreign investments and creating investment opportunities for the commercial community,” ONA quoted him as saying.
Oman’s economy is recovering from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. In its recent budget announcement, the sultanate said it expects revenue to hit 10.58 billion Omani riyals ($27.5bn) in 2022, with more than half (68 per cent) coming from oil and gas.
Non-oil revenue is estimated to reach 3.34bn riyals, or 32 per cent of total government revenue.
The country also allocated 12.13bn riyals for spending, with a focus on basic public services to stimulate investment.
In December, Fitch Ratings revised Oman’s outlook to stable, from negative, after an improvement in key fiscal metrics such as government debt, gross domestic product and the budget deficit.