What role does transportation infrastructure play in Oman’s Vision 2020?
BROERS: In order to diversify Oman’s economy, infrastructure for transport is needed and is the only way for the country to move forward. The overall development of Oman’s seaports is one major step in this process. The Duqm project is a game changer for Oman’s economy, and will allow the economy to develop into a more diversified basket of activities. Duqm will be the hub that is focusing on industrial development. There is a refinery planned, and the focus will be geared towards the production of downstream petrochemical products such as plastics. This industrial development will give an opportunity for the region to develop further. It will help facilitate job creation and give many people a future.
According to Oman’s Vision 2020, the country’s ports are strategically positioned in order to complement rather than compete with each other. What differentiates Duqm from the other major ports such as Sohar and Salalah? How do you see this evolving over the next 2-5 years?
BROERS: Today, we are already validating on the major positive point, Duqm’s location. It is close to the Haima area and as a result it will have to carry out its major role to provide services for the oil and gas industry of Oman. The Sohar port is mostly focusing on the Persian Gulf traffic and the Salalah port is focusing on container traffic. Duqm will mainly be developed as an industrial hub. Duqm will enjoy the downstream benefits from the petrochemical industry and the purification and industrial process with regards to minerals because around the Duqm area there are a lot of mineral deposits. This means that the three ports will focus on different targets, but of course there will be some overlaps which is normal between ports.
Industry insiders have stated that competition among the ports throughout the GCC has been exponentially increasing. What are Oman's main competitive advantages over other ports throughout the region such as those in the UAE and Qatar?
BROERS: The Strait of Hormuz plays its role. The ports in Qatar and the UAE have a big disadvantage. They are not on the main routes to Europe and Asia. They are about two days out of the way. You have to go from the main route into the Persian Gulf and you lose a lot of time doing that. Oman is more centrally located on the world map than the Persian Gulf, which is very clear. Everywhere, projects are going on to export crude oil and gas out of the Persian Gulf through alternative routes. The importance of Duqm and Oman is growing in that respect.
The government has invested roughly $1.7bn in the development of Duqm. What implications will this investment have on the growth and expansion of downstream operations throughout the region? Furthermore, what actions are currently being taken in order to attract further FDI to Duqm and increase the region’s downstream industrial capacity?
BROERS: The government’s investment is focused on the development of the Al Wusta region. It is a political decision embedded with a very logical and natural idea for finding a good location for a port. The coastline of Oman is big enough to accommodate a third player, on top of the Salalah and Sohar ports. We follow and support the leading role of the Special Economic Zone Authority of Duqm (SEZAD). They have given a lot of effort to bring the stakeholders of Duqm together. The Port has to make sure that it works together with all these stakeholders. We need to join our marketing efforts so we have a stronger convincing power for possible investors.
The Oman Observer has recently stated that the Port of Duqm is expected to generate roughly 15,000 direct jobs. What programs or actions are currently being taken in order to ensure that Omanis looking to enter the industry are properly trained and integrated?
BROERS: From the beginning, the Port of Duqm has been focusing on embedding the Omani labour force into the project. The Port of Duqm has received an award for Omanization and the implementation of bringing Omanis to a level that provides a sustainable workforce for the port. This is one thing that we have been implementing since the beginning. We have focused on developing programs for Omanis at our port. 15,000 direct jobs is a big number and it will happen when the whole area is ready for use. We have roughly 1,500 hectares of logistic land surrounding the port and the 15,000 jobs will mostly come from there. If you have a normal logistics project you can calculate that you will have roughly 10 workers on an area of about 10,000 square meters. That is the average number that you can reach doing a logistics project. On top of that, there will be activities coming from the terminal operators in the port.
The ports in Qatar and the UAE have a big disadvantage. They are not on the main routes to Europe and Asia. They are about two days out of the way. You have to go from the main route into the Persian Gulf and you lose a lot of time doing that. Oman is more centrally located on the world map than the Persian Gulf, which is very clear.
What major challenges is Oman’s maritime industry currently facing? What projects or initiatives is the government implementing in Duqm in order to ensure that these challenges are being met?
BROERS: Currently, the major challenge is that transport infrastructure is not on par with certain standards. Oman has a large coastline and a huge maritime history, but the maritime activities are limited. Oman does not have big shipping or container lines. These opportunities are there to grasp and everything will come together with the further development of the country’s infrastructure. Once you have a port then you will have ships, trade, and the opportunity to develop maritime activities. As an example, there will be opportunities for terminal operators, which are based in Oman and can operate in the country’s ports. They can become more renown and take over other terminals that are operating outside of Oman. There is definitely a big future for them.