Despite generally lower revenues and a slump in activity in the global maritime industry, throughput at Sohar port was up again and topped an average of 1mn tonnes a week for 2016.
Container traffic rose by 15 per cent compared to 2015, break bulk was up by 18 per cent, and liquid bulk throughput increased by 12 per cent year-on-year, according to a press release issued by Sohar Port and Freezone on Sunday.
The port received well over 2,600 vessel calls in 2016, also a significant increase in numbers despite the global trend towards larger ships, it said.
The new Food Zone was one of the main highlights of plans announced for 2017, as Sohar Port and Freezone CEO Mark Geilenkirchen explained, “One of our goals is to maximise our prime strategic location, advanced logistics infrastructure and optimal connectivity to help reduce the 70 per cent gap between food consumption and food production in the GCC. Our new Food Zone development will also be seamlessly integrated with the sultanate’s other food security efforts.”
Geilenkirchen said that Sohar Port South is a significant land reclamation area, currently under construction, designed to accommodate new industrial projects, that will be announced soon.
“The project will include new, deep-water berths to the south of the existing port area. It will give a substantial boost to the sultanate’s diversification efforts, aimed to increase the contribution of non-oil sectors to GDP,” he said.
Sohar Freezone will also witness a number of new developments in 2017, as plans for the second phase of the Freezone take shape. Jamal T Aziz, CEO of Sohar Freezone, explained that the first 500-hectares of phase one have almost all been leased out. “We are currently improving the business environment based on the output received from the sultanate’s ‘Tanfeedh’ process. This includes further streamlining the Freezone’s one-stop-shop procedures for investors and ensuring that international best practices are applied. A new bonded road corridor, featuring the latest international customs procedures, will further improve connectivity between the Port and adjacent Freezone.”
The most futuristic plans on the table were for an Innovation Zone inside the new Freezone area to be built in close cooperation with Port of Rotterdam.
Geilenkirchen noted that 2017 promises to be the most exciting year ever for Sohar Port and Freezone. “Together with private sector companies, international research institutes and some of the world’s top universities, we are seeking innovative solutions across a broad range of issues that affect our shipping, logistics and industrial sectors.”