Ahmed bin Nasser al Mahrizi, Chairman – Salalah Port Services Co SAOG, cited recent analysis published by Alphaliner (a globally reputed reference source for the liner shipping industry) to show that around 25 per cent of the global container fleet now falls in the category of mega boxships of capacities surpassing 12,500 TEU, while 61 per cent of the current global order book of new buildings is above this size. “This is a clear indication of shipping lines continued focus on upsize their vessel fleet which will require hub terminals like Salalah to invest in upgrade in its capabilities to safely handle these large vessels,” Al Mahrizi stated in the newly released Directors’ Report for the quarter ended March 31, 2019.
Port of Salalah has been receiving mega containerships from time to time. In July 2016, the maritime gateway welcomed the MSC Zoe, then the world’s largest container vessel with a capacity of 19,224 containers. But new mega boxship sizes burgeoning to 23,000 TEU and beyond, a corresponding upgrade in the handling capabilities of the port’s Container Terminal has now become essential, according to the port.
Of late, efforts to bolster the port’s overall capabilities have been pursued under the government-driven Tanfeedh initiative (The National Programme for Enhancing Economic Diversification) as part of a wider campaign to strengthen the Sultanate’s logistics appeal. With plans for new berths (7, 8 and 9) temporarily placed on hold, Tanfeedh has focused on other “quick win” initiatives designed to strengthen productivity and efficiency at Salalah Port.
One such initiative, deliberated during Tanfeedh’s Logistics Lab, centred on a proposal for investments in a fleet of 12 post-Panamax gantry cranes for installation along Berths 5 and 6. Designed to handled Triple-E container vessels (of 18,000 TEU plus), the proposed cranes were billed as key to attracting new volumes to Salalah. The Implementation Support & Follow-up Unit (ISFU) set up under the auspices of the Diwan of Royal Court to facilitate the implementation of the Tanfeedh initiatives reported last year that the Gantry Cranes proposal had been approved by the Ministry of Transport and Communications.
Meanwhile, Port of Salalah reported a 12 per cent decline in container throughput during the first quarter or this year.
The Container Terminal (CT) handled 912K TEUs this year, compared to 1.032 million TEUs during the corresponding period last year – a slump attributed to the lingering effects of Cyclone Mekunu, which devastated parts of Dhofar Governorate in May last year.
The General Cargo Terminal (GCT), in comparison, handled 4.324 million tons of assorted bulk commodities, representing a three per cent growth over corresponding figures for Q1 2018. Major commodities handled by the port include limestone, gypsum, methanol and cement.
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