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Sohar Port And Freezone Records Robust Growth In 2017

Despite volatility in the global maritime sector, Sohar Port and Freezone once again posted a year of consistent growth with an average of over 1mn tonnes of cargo handled by the port every week in 2017.

Containers traffic rose 36 per cent last year compared to 2016, while dry bulk throughput increased 25 per cent year-on-year, according to a press release.

Sohar Port 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.

Sohar Port and Freezone on Wednesday hosted its annual business reception at The Chedi Muscat where they revealed 2017 operating results and major projects for 2018.

One of the major highlights for Sohar Port and Freezone in 2017 was the establishment of a 40-hectare food cluster at the port which will include a major flour mill, a world-class sugar refinery, and a grain silo complex. The flour mill, operated by Sohar Flour Mills, will have a capacity of 500 tonnes per day, while the planned sugar refinery, owned and operated by the Oman Sugar Refinery Co, will boast a production capacity of 1mn tonnes per annum. Sohar Port now operates a terminal dedicated exclusively for the food cluster.

“We are pleased to report another year of solid growth for Sohar Port and Freezone. In 2017, we focused strongly on the food sector and were able to attract significant public and private sector investments to the cluster. Our focus on this field enabled us to capture a larger slice of the food products cargo trade in the region,” Mark Geilenkirchen, CEO of Sohar Port and Freezone, said.

“This is aided by the steady growth in aggregate cargo volumes and investments at the port, such as the upcoming Sohar Port South expansion, which is set to deliver additional cargo capacity and attract significantly more business,” he added.

Launched in 2017 and now nearing completion, the Sohar Port South expansion will add new deep-water berths and a further 200-hectares of land to Sohar Port and Frezone’s present capacity of around 2,000 hectares. Given its proximity to the bustling petrochemicals cluster, the expansion will be earmarked almost exclusively for oil and gas-based investments.

Sohar Freezone also witnessed a number of milestones in 2017, the most significant of which was the signing with India’s Pittie Group, one of the biggest cotton yarn manufacturers in the world, for a US$300mn cotton yarn project.

“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,” Jamal Aziz, CEO of Sohar Freezone, said.

“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,” Aziz added.
He added, “Looking ahead, a US$60mn 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 freezone 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 on imports of bitumen and asphalt for road paving and industrial applications.

Geilenkirchen noted that growth from within the freezone also plays a significant role in the growth of port operations. “As the number of resident businesses increase, so to do cargo volumes. We are promoting the consolidation of shipping cargo for smaller players in the freezone, many of whom currently transport their cargo overland to other port destinations in the region. Providing more practical options for clients to consolidate their cargo reduces unnecessary handling and delays, and helps to increase cargo volumes,” he said.
Source: Muscat Daily

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