Muscat: Businessmen involved in cargo clearing and transportation at Muscat's Sultan Qaboos Port (SQP) are worried over the operational hurdles after the transfer of cargo movement activities to Sohar Industrial Port (SIP) from August 31, even though this move was backed by the government and port officials, businessmen said.
The government's deadline for receiving containers, cargo, vehicle carriers and project material vessels at SQP in Muscat ended on August 31 and all cargo operations were immediately transferred to Sohar port.
"The last vessel with cargo came and offloaded goods at SQP two days ago. Now, we have moved our operations to Sohar port," a businessman involved in cargo clearing and transportation for the last 25 years at SQP told Times of Oman.
"The transfer of cargo activities to Sohar will help tourism and industrial development. We welcome the move, but at the same time, some operational glitches are affecting business," the businessman said.
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According to businessmen who have offices in the Sohar and Muttrah ports, the goods transportation charges will become a huge burden."The expenses are double now, so we don't know how it will affect the market. It is a worrying situation," the businessman added.
According to the businessmen, clearance of mostly perishable goods has been affected and delays will damage goods resulting in losses.
There are more than 50 goods clearing and transporting agents operating in and around Muttrah area. "I have seen the growth of the SQP. The volume of business has increased considerably. Now, we expect the same at Sohar," the businessman said, while adding that he hoped the relocation hurdles at the port would soon be sorted out.
Recently, a top official at Oman International Container Terminal (OICT) had promised port users that all their issues would be resolved within two to three months. Shipping agents, importers and exporters have urged the body which manages the container terminal at Sohar port and other government agencies, to urgently resolve the delay in clearing their containers and other cargo.
Meanwhile, a senior official at Sohar Industrial Port Company has said that the strategic location of Sohar port and the infrastructure development taking place there, including the Oman National Railway project, will help make it the region's preferred port and free zone.
According to Edwin Lammers, a top official of the Sohar port, the special considerations that allow for the railway to pass through the port can put Sohar in a better position than rival ports, including Jebel Ali.
He said that the Sohar rail concept includes on-dock rail connection to the terminals and industries which produce considerable 'railway cargo' (more than 500,000 tonnes per year) and a Rail Service Centre which serves the 'smaller' customers in the port and free zone, industrial estate, air freight village and regional industries.
The Rail Service Centre is also planning to offer (in addition to loading and offloading of goods) warehousing for cross docking, stuffing etc.
Lammers also said that railway connections will help boost the status of the ports which in turn can positively affect the performance of the railway system.
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