Sohar Port focused on rail integration
By Neha Bhatia
Oman's Sohar Port and Freezone is working "at full steam" to ensure the industrial port and adjoining freezone are integrated with the national and GCC rail networks, a senior executive has said.
Edwin Lammers, executive commercial manager, said the planned introduction of rail corridors along the gateway's main cargo terminals will give Sohar Port a significant advantage over other well-established regional ports, which have relatively congested cargo terminals that do not allow any large-scale incorporation of rail infrastructure.
Lammers told Oman Daily Observer: "We believe on-dock rail facilities will give us a major advantage over other main ports around us.
"Towards this end, we are trying to determine how we can connect our terminals to the rail network, thereby enabling the transportation of containers, cars, dry bulk cargo, and other such freight, by rail.
"The ultimate goal is to bring the rail network as close to the terminals as possible, to eliminate the need for intermediate logistics which have the potential to ratchet up freight costs," Lammers added.
Sohar Port has been working with Oman Rail to ensure its gateway is suitably equipped for rail operations.
"We are in regular discussion with Oman Rail to ensure that the alignment they have in mind allows for, among other things, a smooth interface between the port, freezone and other stakeholders in the area, the required rights of way are in place," Lammers said.
"We are working to understand each other better in promoting the movement of cargo by rail and thereby help grow the port's business. We are also in detailed discussion with them over the development of maintenance yards, service centres around the rail corridors, and so on.
"So the interaction between the port and Oman Rail is very intense," he added.
One line of the network is proposed to run alongside the giant iron ore pelletising complex of Vale Oman, from where iron ore pellets will be shifted by rail to customers around the Gulf.
The track is expected to run onwards along an area earmarked for the port's Future Container Terminal where long-haul containers will be handled. Also pinpointed for rail-based access is the new Agro Cluster anchored by a grain terminal and sugar refinery.
Also slated for transport by rail are sizable volumes of liquid cargoes associated with the liquid terminal operated by Oiltanking Odfjell at the port.
According to Lammers, all of the internal networks and related support infrastructure are expected to be put in place largely in parallel with the implementation of Segment 1 of the National Railway Project.
A contract award for the 207km segment, linking Sohar Port with Buraimi on the Sultanate's border with the UAE, is expected to be awarded before the end of this year, the report added.