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Sohar port gears up to handle Muscat port’s key operations


Many of the world’s most renowned shipping companies such as Maersk Line, UASC, CMA and APL already operate from the existing container terminal. - Shabine E/Times of Oman

Sohar: Sohar port has achieved its most important milestone to date with the arrival of the first 10,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) ship at the newly expanded Oman International Container Terminal (OICT) on Friday.

The arrival of APL shipping's Savannah, the first 10,000 TEU ship docked in Sohar port, was marked by a function conducted under the auspices of Dr Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Futaisi, Minister of Transport and Communications.

The OICT has installed new post-Panamax cranes at the newly built container terminal (terminal C).

"This is the first time in the history of these ports (Muscat and Sohar) to receive a 10,000 TEU vessel and that is an indication of the good progress that Oman is making in developing ports," Dr Al Futaisi said on the sidelines of the event. "Today's event shows that Sohar port is ready for the transition (of handling Muscat port's volume). It is ready in terms of infrastructure, handling procedures and volume," added the minister, referring to the plans for shifting all commercial activities of the Muscat port to Sohar by August this year.

Echoing a similar view, Andre Toet, chief executive officer of Sohar Industrial Port Company (SIPC) also said that the volumes can easily be absorbed by the Sohar port.

He said presently 2,000 vessels call at the Sohar port in a year, which, after shifting, will go up to 2,400 or 2,450 vessels. "Several ships normally carry out a double call on both Muscat and Sohar port. Now the ships (coming to Sohar) will be larger."

In fact, the OICT signed the development agreement early last year for expansion of a 70-hectare container terminal. The development, which is now implemented in a phased manner, will increase capacity from 800,000 TEUs to 1.5 million TEUs and will see yard space more than double from 28 hectares, installation of seven post-Panamax quay cranes and 14 rubber-tyre gantry cranes.

"We will complete terminal C with new cranes, taking the capacity to 1.5 million TEUs by 2015," Capt Rashid Jamil, chief executive officer of the OICT told the Times of Oman.

The investment in the new expansion totals $130 million, and the state-of-the-art facilities, new technology and port depth will mean the current maximum vessel size will increase from 6,500 TEU to in excess of 10,000 TEU. This increased capacity will further underscore Sohar Port and Freezone's competitive position. Many of the world's most renowned shipping companies such as Maersk Line, UASC, CMA and APL already operate from the existing container terminal. These recent developments enable shipping lines to bring their mainline vessels directly into Oman. Maersk Line was the first to shift commercial activity from Muscat to Sohar.  "We are committed to and geared towards catering for, and creating growth in container traffic. We are in a prime position to attract shipping lines to channel their North Oman specific boxes through Sohar," said Andre Toet.

"This is another milestone in the story of Sohar Port and Freezone. From humble beginnings, we have now developed into one of the fastest growing port and freezones in the world and are eagerly looking forward to the future to continue our incredible success story," noted Jamal Tawfiq, chief executive officer of Sohar Freezone.

To get in touch with the reporter: businesseditor@timesofoman.com

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