Jaap van Dalen, executive commercial manager of the Oman-based Sohar Industrial Port Company, highlights some of the company's recent developments.
How has Sohar Industrial Port Company (SIPC) developed since its inauguration?
SIPC was established in 2002 as a joint venture between the government of Oman and the port of Rotterdam.
Basically, they wanted to develop and manage a port for around 25 years between 2002 and 2027, although we changed the concession agreement last year and extended the period to 2032. In the beginning, the port was approximately 2000 hectares in size and roughly 4300 hectares have been added since this time.
It's important to continue SIPC's growth in the future and we are planning to develop a special economic zone (SEZ) too, which will be a major component of our operations.
What are the port's main facilities?
In the port of Sohar we have a couple of industries, mainly petrochemical and metallurgical. Next to that we have a number of independent terminals, we have a liquid bulk terminal which is run by a joint venture between oil tanking and a number of shareholders. We have a general cargo company which is run by a Dutch organisation.
We also have the container terminal called Oman International Container Terminal (OICT). Some of the industries are already in operation but most are still under construction.
We have all types of cargo in our port including containerised cargo, liquid bulk, dry bulk and general cargo.
How do you feel about the port's central location?
I would say that the Port of Sohar is ideally located with a marine side and a land side. If you look at the water side we're very close to Iran, India, Pakistan and the distance to the Gulf area is not very far either. If you look at the land side we are very well placed; the distance to Muscat is 220km, the distance to Abu Dhabi is 260km, the distance to Dubai is 280km, so in that sense we're very centrally located.
Do you find it easy to recruit staff into the business?
So far we are a quite a young port because we only started four or five years ago. If you look at the industries in the terminals today they have had no problems whatsoever finding employees. All Oman based companies have a minimum number of locals they have to employ, but no one seems to have a problem with that.
How do you feel about the growing competition across the region?
Of course there's a lot of port developments going on, both in Oman and surrounding countries. All the ports around us are doing quite well which is only helping us. If there's too little competition companies try and kill each other in terms of competitive rates.
There's a lot of growth coming to all of us in the industry and we're more than happy to accommodate for that.
What is the company's involvement with the Brazilian company, Vale?
Vale is the largest exporter of iron ore and the second largest mining company in the world. They have signed a contract with us very recently which involves the construction of palletising plans.
Large carriers will come from Brazil with around 350 tonnes or more of iron ore, we will build a dedicated jetty to accommodate that and the iron ore will come on conveyor belts. The iron ore will be palletised and then exported to customers around the Middle East, south east Asia and Indian subcontinent.
What do you feel have been the main highlights of 2008 so far?
Well we've had a relatively large number of companies come onboard over the past year. The special economic zone will be officially launched later this year in October so we've had a number of highlights really.
What are your plans for the future?
In the coming year we're reclaiming roughly 100 hectares which is 10km2.
Next to that we'll be working on the SEZ and with roughly 4500 hectares being added to our area there's a lot of possibility to grow. We're doing quite well, particularly in terms of investment and shipping. We have also seen a growth rate in the past year of 50% and we expect a similar growth rate this year.