A major Arab Gulf regional gateway port and transhipment hub on the Arabian Sea, the port of Salalah in Oman has opened a new deepwater general cargo and liquid bulk terminal.
Adding 20 million tonnes of dry cargo and six million tonnes of liquid bulk cargo annual handling capacity, the terminal has a 1,266 m quay dredged to 18 m built on the leeward side of the southern breakwater that offers two 320 m-long general cargo berths and two 300 m-long liquid bulk berths.
Built by the Oman government at a cost of OMR55 million (USD143 million), the terminal is in line with the port’s ‘2020 Vision’ for growth. Salalah is operated by APM Terminals, which also holds a 30% share. It has a seven-berth container terminal with an alongside depth of 18 m and infrastructure to handle the world’s largest container vessels. Prior to the new terminal opening, its general cargo facility operated 12 berths with draughts of up to 16 m.
“The new terminal is able to handle a wide range of vessels, from naval ships to those handling limestone, cement, livestock, project cargo, and other dry bulk commodities,” said Salalah CEO David Gledhill. “The port continues to grow as a key centre of trade and logistics for the region.”
Salalah handled 3.03 million teu in 2014, along with 10.3 million tonnes of bulk cargo. It terms of productivity, it tied for fifth place in the 2014 JOC Group Productivity Study in the Europe, Middle East, and Africa region, with 96 crane moves per hour.
Oman is a major exporter of limestone and gypsum, and the country’s Zawawi Group entered a joint venture with US-based USG Corp in 2012 to grow trade for the latter in the Middle East and India. Salalah benefits from its strategic location at the major east-west shipping lane; within two days you can be in the Red Sea, and in four days you can be in India or east Africa, and slightly longer into South Africa. That, along with relatively low operational expenditure and excellent infrastructure, makes the port a particularly interesting regional proposition for international investors, especially those in the liquid bulk commodity markets.
Liquid bulk cargoes are increasingly important for Omani industry and trade. “A dedicated pipe corridor links the new liquid bulk terminal directly with one of our customers operating within the port,” noted deputy CEO Ahmed Akaak. “And in the future, an extension will connect with the Salalah Free Zone where new customers are setting up plants.”
The port is keen to attract further businesses, not just for commodities but also value-added processes: chemical manufacturing, hydrocarbon storage, transhipment, and breaking bulk.
Of course, a major factor that will boost Salalah and its Free Zone still further is the USD2 billion, 2,177 km-long GCC rail network, which will for the first time link all six Gulf states by rail and is due to be fully operational in 2018, according to the Riyadh-based GCC secretariat general. It will run along the Gulf coast from Kuwait through Saudi Arabia to the United Arab Emirates, and Oman, with branches linking Bahrain and Qatar.
If everything works out, Salalah will be able to build an on-dock rail facility and estimates that it could offer huge value by trimming from seven to 10 days from the transit time needed to move containers and other cargoes from Asia or Europe into Kuwait, Qatar, and Iraq.