ANALYSIS: Oman logistics industry's transformation

The logistics industry in the Sultanate of Oman is going through a transformation to overcome infrastructure bottleneck, lack of investment in port handling capacity, and poor land transport connectivity with other GCC countries.
Duqm Port is one of the major Omani logistics projects.
Duqm Port is one of the major Omani logistics projects.

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The logistics industry in the Sultanate of Oman is going through a transformation to overcome infrastructure bottleneck, lack of investment in port handling capacity, and poor land transport connectivity with other GCC countries, says Frost & Sullivan in a new Oman-focused report.

Strong support from the government on key infrastructure projects to ease congestion and enhance capacity is the main reason for this transformation. The key projects include development of national railway network and modernisation of airports with a focus on increasing freight handling capacity.

The Logistics sector is one of the main non-oil economic sectors and contributed 4.9% to the country’s GDP in 2015, the government is therefore keen on promoting Oman as a leading logistics centre in the region.

According to Frost & Sullivan, the logistics industry in Oman is likely to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 6.9% between 2015 and 2020. The key drivers for economic growth are the infrastructure investments associated with national logistics development plans, economic diversification efforts, and trade with the GCC, Asia and Sub-Saharan African countries.

Oman’s National Rail Network is likely to increase capacity and the Logistics Strategy 2020 aims to provide the infrastructure required for the development of major hubs for handling international cargo.

As a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Oman is likely to benefit from alignment of trade policies and customs regulations and integration of national transport infrastructure with regional transportation corridors in the GCC.

The Oman Logistics Plan 2020 and the Oman Logistics Strategy (SOLS) 2040 plan to improve the country’s soft infrastructure, particularly the regulatory environment, support mechanisms, and institutions. Oman’s strategic centralised location in the Arabian Gulf makes it ideal for conversion into a major transhipment hub for the East-West trade route.

Some of the key trends identified in the Oman logistics industry are:

Initiated by the Supreme Council of Planning (SCP), the task force has developed the Sultanate of Oman Logistics Strategy 2040 (SOLS 2040).

Investments on infrastructure and latest technology for upgrading ports, airport facilities, new road links, supported by increased Government spending.

High priority is given for the development of national rail network to connect with the GCC rail network to improve efficiency and reduce logistics costs.

Trade with the GCC, Asia, and Europe is likely to remain the major driver for freight forwarding and transportation companies in the region.

Main exports continue to be mineral fuels, oils distillation by-products, while imports comprise manufacturing goods and agriculture products.

The Transportation & Logistics segment accounted for around USD 8.81 billion of Oman’s GDP in 2015. The services sector will be the growth engine for Oman’s economy, driven by a state focus on logistics, transportation, and tourism industries. Amongst all freight activities in Oman, sea transport is the predominant mode, accounting for more than 80% of freight in Oman handled by Sohar and Salalah Ports. As part of the government’s plan, Port Sohar has been earmarked to handle sea cargo as an alternative to Muscat since 2015.

Following major upgrades of port facilities, Sohar port handled nearly 50 million tonne of cargo in 2015. Sea freight is likely to grow by 4.8% per cent in 2016, driven by the increasing intra-region GCC trade and due to trans-shipment demand from Asia, Europe, and Africa.

The road freight in Oman is driven by domestic economic activities to meet local demand and land-based trade with other GCC countries. Construction of a new link of a 680-km road between Oman and the KSA will provide a more direct route between the two countries as well as reduce the number of border crossings, while increasing road transport efficiencies. As international trade gains momentum with the expansion of cargo handling capacities in major airports, Oman is likely to see a steady upward growth in air freight in 2016. Overall, the Oman logistics industry is likely to grow by 7% in 2016.

“Oman’s Logistics Industry has the potential to be one amongst the key Logistics Centres in the region,” says Gopal R, global vice president, Supply Chain & Logistics Transformation Practice, Frost & Sullivan. “The emphasis on domestic output is creating scope for substantial cargo volume growth to and from Oman. This can trigger enhanced connectivity and networking, which would then lead to transforming the logistics industry to support trade for other countries as well.”

However, this growth could be challenged by surging competition from the UAE and the KSA, along with other countries with similar portfolios and investment scenarios for the logistics industry. The inefficient logistics infrastructure (especially, in the sub-urban areas) increasing the potential costs and time efficiency of the logistics operations, and shortage of skilled labour relating to logistics services to support the growing requirements of the market, are also significant challenges.