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Spotlight on logistics at Oman Economic & Free Zone Summit

Between 2014 and 2018, Oman’s ranking in the World Bank’s Global Logistics Performance Index went up from 59th to 43rd. Beyond increased investment, the improved ranking reflects a growing focus on integrating existing assets and capabilities to build a flexible and efficient multi-modal logistics network in Oman.

Organised by Free Zone Watch, co-hosted by Ithraa and supported by the Oman Chamber of Commerce & Industry, the upcoming Oman Economic & Free Zone Summit, scheduled for October 21-22, 2019 at the Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre, will be held under the auspices of Dr Yahya bin Mahfoudh al Mantheri, State Council Chairman.

The two-day international event promises to outline the strategic shifts in regional trade and in-country developments which make the sultanate an ideal logistics hub for international investors.

In 2018, Oman was the top location for FDI in the Gulf with $19.6 billion worth of investment. Nearly 60 per cent of the 173 investment projects located in the Gulf financed by Arab entities were located in Oman. Indeed, the logistics-first approach is enabling Oman to leverage its core geo-strategic advantages and establish itself as the best place to invest in the Gulf.

Khazaen Economic City is an exciting project in Oman’s integrationist approach towards logistics — dovetailing public and private sector efforts to create a value-adding logistics corridors. Located in Barka, around 60 kilometres north-west of Muscat, the project includes plans to create a new free zone, logistics and industrial complex and Oman’s first dry port. The in-land development will cover more than 50 square kilometres and is expected to be the largest public-private partnership in Omani history.

The Khazaen dry port will eventually provide a vital transshipment hub for cargo moving between Sohar Port and Muscat, with transport links provided by the Batinah Expressway and Muscat International Airport. Marafi, a subsidiary of ASYAD, is responsible for the project which fits within ASYAD’s broader mandate of supporting Oman’s ambitions of becoming a multi-modal logistics hub.

In July 2019, ASYAD published its intention to explore the commercial potential of ten separate ports, including strategic sites that include Liwa, Sur and the island of Masirah. The smaller ports will in time, complement the operations of Oman’s major ports by serving market demands through import and exports, adding the possibility of diversification through tourism activities, and providing integrated logistics solutions. In Al Batinah, there are proposals to upgrade the fishing port of Suwaiq into a commercial port for small and medium-sized cargo vessels. The port is located 150 kilometres from Suhar, which handles in excess of one million metric tons of sea cargo each week. The deep-sea port recently added a Food Zone, offering the region’s first dedicated agro bulk terminal with integrated facilities for food manufacturing, packaging and food logistics.

However, as Suhar continues to grow into a major regional sea port, Suwaiq could become a smaller, lower-cost alternative. A hub for perishable goods, such as fruits and vegetables, livestock and light manufactured goods that include furniture, textiles and electronics. Suwaiq’s close proximity to the proposed KEC dry port in Barka, as well as maritime access to Pakistan, India and Iran could be attractive features for traders.

Elsewhere, construction of the 720-kilometre dual carriageway linking Adam and Thamrait continues. As of May 2019, 361 kilometres had been completed and opened for vehicles. Once finished, the road will provide a faster arterial link between Muscat and Salalah. And in the far west of Oman, new trading links with the UAE could open-up as that country constructs its national rail network, linking Fujairah, on the Omani border, with Ghuweifat in the far west.
  • World Bank
  • Global Logistics
  • Investment
  • Free Zones
  • Ithraa
  • Oman
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