GATEWAY TO THE GULF
Despite volatility in the global maritime sector, SOHAR Port and Freezone once again posted a year of consistent growth with an average of over one million tonnes of cargo handled by the port every week in 2017. Container traffic was up by 36 per cent compared to 2016, dry bulk throughput increased by 25 per cent year-on-year. SOHAR received 3,075 vessel calls in 2017, marking a significant increase of 17 per cent, despite the continued global trend towards consolidation and larger ships.
One of the major highlights for SOHAR in 2017 was the establishment of a 40-hectare food cluster at the port which include a major flour mill, a world-class sugar refinery, and a grain silo complex. The former, operated by Sohar Flour Mills has a capacity of 500 tonnes per day, while the planned sugar refinery, owned and operated by the Oman Sugar Refinery Company, will boast a production capacity of onemillion tonnes per annum. SOHAR now operates a terminal at the port dedicated exclusively for the food cluster. Another major project was for the production of antimony, a mineral which is primarily used as a fire-retardant. In total around 26 companies are already reaping the benefits of unrivalled access to land, low-cost energy, and skilled workforce in the region.
Industries already located at SOHAR
are also expanding with Oman Oil Refineries and Petroleum Industries (Orpic) boosting refinery capacity, from 120,000 to 180,000 barrels per day; while Gulf Mining are constructing five ferrochrome smelters to boost metals output. Investment in the smelter is part of a push to grow our metals cluster; to complement and support iron and aluminium industries at SOHAR.
The metals cluster at Sohar is one of the fastest growing, with a high economic yield. Studies indicate iron industries and their derivatives have experienced exceptional growth as they continue to strive to meet demand. Looking ahead, a $ 60 million deal with a UK-led consortium will see SOHAR house the largest rare earth metal plant of its kind outside of China. Plus, agreements with two of Oman’s biggest business houses will see an annual assembly within the free zone of 200,000 vehicles from some of the world’s leading automotive brands. Another new addition to SOHAR Port in 2018 is Oman’s first bitumen refinery, a new plant that will significantly reduce the reliance imports of bitumen and asphalt for road paving and industrial applications.
Taking advantage of the growing local and global market for asphalt and bitumen, the project will create new business opportunities and employment in Oman with 34 direct jobs for citizens generated in the first phase of operations. According to market projections, the capacity of phase 1 will be around 1.6 million tonnes per annum, with 35 per cent allocated to the Omani market, 35 per cent exported to GCC countries and 30 per cent destined for the international market. The plant is backed by Sohar Asphalt LLC, an Oman-registered company who are investing $386 million in the new venture.
Looking ahead, the region’s first major cotton yarn plant in SOHAR Freezone will manufacture a wide range of cotton yarn, to be operated as SV Pittie Sohar Textiles FZC-LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Bombay Stock Exchange listed SVP Global Ventures Ltd. The facility will eventually provide over 1,500 jobs and is expected to start commercial operations late 2019.
With an output of around 150 metric tons of yarn a day, the new SVP facility will be the first step in establishing a fully-fledged textile cluster in SOHAR Freezone. Downstream investments in knitting, weaving, spinning and fabric manufacturing could create a thriving industrial cluster providing thousands of new jobs for local households.
In addition, SOHAR will soon be responsible for managing Oman’s national food reserve once the country`s very first terminal dedicated to handling agricultural commodities is built.