An agreement has been signed by authorities from both sides, paving the way for the service to start in the first quarter of 2016.
According to the agreement, after the success of the Khasab-Qeshm route, ferries on other routes like Shinas-Qeshm, Sohar-Qeshm and Muscat-Qeshm could also be launched.
Mehdi al Abduwani, CEO, National Ferries Company (NFC) told Muscat Daily that based on a route study, Qeshm was the most viable option to start the service because of the journey’s shorter duration (close to 44 nautical miles).
“The MoU signed with Qeshm Freezone Authority last week will provide NFC all the privileges for running a scheduled ferry service to the island. It is an important corridor for trade with central Asia and will become a key element for contribution to Oman’s economic diversification efforts,” he said. According the MoU, Qesh Port has to provide all necessary facilities for NFC vessels, one of them being ramps for vehicles.
“Qesh Port authorities are expected to provide full facilities by March, including ramps for vehicle transportation,” he said.
He added that ROP is also working to determine the services required for arrival and departure of Iranian visitors through Khasab. “We are ready to roll out services from our side any time and it will include both, passenger and goods,” Abduwani said.
According to the MoU, passengers would be exempt from visa or visa fees to promote tourism in Qeshm Island. “Visa-free travel is limited to Qeshm Island. For any further travel into Iran, visitors will need to arrange for the required travel documents,” a senior NFC official told Muscat Daily.
The agreement also gives NFC exemption from port duty and berthing charges, including passenger and vehicle levy for the first six months.
NFC carries out trial run to Port of Chabahar
NFC conducted a trial run of its fast ferry service from Muscat to Port of Chabahar in Iran on Monday. The Port of Chabahar is located south of Sistan and Baluchestan Province, providing ease of access to the Sea of Oman and the Gulf.
NFC is keen to explore viability of more ports in Oman and Iran for ferry services. “As a trial run would suggest, we are considering the option of Muscat-Chabahar route, which is about 155 nautical miles,” said an NFC official.
NFC had organised a trial run on board its Sawqrah ferry from Khasab Port to Qeshm Island in February 2015. The company had also undertaken a similar visit on its ferry to Bahonar Port in Bandar Abbas, Iran, in late 2012.
During last week’s Omani-Iranian exhibition in Khasab, Iranian authorities chartered an NFC ferry. “A full delegation from Iran at the exhibition arrived from Bandar Abbas in an NFC ferry,” said Mehdi al Abduwani, CEO, NFC.