With the trappings of a world-class, multipurpose commercial gateway, the Port of Duqm has ambitions to become one of the largest ports in the Middle East
The Port of Duqm is all about leveraging the untapped opportunities that Oman can offer in the global energy markets.
Located on the southeastern seaboard of Oman and easily accessible from the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean, the port offers alternative opportunities from other key hubs in the Middle East, namely its distance from the Strait of Hormuz chokepoint.
It is this strategic geopolitical location that the Omani government is capitalising on with its special economic zone (SEZ) project, which comprises a new airport, a tourism zone, a fisheries zone as well as a mineral cluster and industrial zone on a 2,000 square kilometre parcel of land.
Situated within the SEZ, which has been heralded as the largest economic initiative in Oman in recent history, sits plans for a new town, designed to accommodate around 100,000 people. Currently, only the northern half of the zone is being developed.
Within the industrial zone, plans are in place for a major export refinery complex, with a capacity to process 230,000 barrels per day of heavy crude. To support this, a €480 million contract has been awarded to Boskalis for the construction of a bulk liquid berth terminal.
Work will include the dredging the port basin and deepening it to a depth of 18 meters, the reclamation of new land, the construction of a quay wall and a double berth liquid handling jetty. It is due to be completed in 2020.
In an interview with Tank Storage Magazine Erwin Mortelmans, commercial director at the port, explains that following the commissioning of the refinery, additional infrastructure will be needed to support the development.
‘The Omani government has realised that the region has not been utilised to its full potential, especially with global trade. ‘If you compare it to other location, Oman proves to be a strategically important location as it helps to connect trade flows between the east and west.
‘Duqm is a very good location because it is far away from the Strait of Hormuz but not too far away from the shipping lanes and this is valuable when you consider the liquid bulk industry. When you consider a new energy hub, we need to be in a location where you don’t deviate too far from existing infrastructure.
‘There are a limited amount of opportunities to expand elsewhere and this is an opportunity that the Port of Duqm can leverage. For example, the Port of Fujairah has been very successful – a lot has already been built there and there is opportunity to build more in the future but it is limited.
‘It is a good hub but some people don’t want to travel all the way to Fujairah and while there are alternative locations, they are limited. The Port of Duqm can be a good alternative.’
In addition to the refinery project, a petrochemical complex is also envisioned in later stages of the industrial zone’s development. Feedstock imports and exports of the finished products will eventually be handled via the port to emphasise its importance as a maritime gateway.
The Duqm project also encompasses OTTCO’s Ras Markaz oil storage terminal, which is expected to be one of the largest terminals in the Middle East, and will complement the Duqm refinery.
Mortelmans adds: ‘We are a port in its early days and so far we have been focusing on the handling of project cargo and break bulk cargo.
‘With the refinery and storage infrastructure we are also considering other cargo flows such as bunkering, blending and strategic storage.
‘It is now a good time to think about what is feasible for the port and our ambitions for the future and to get feedback from the market with regards to the Port of Duqm and what it can offer.’
Duqm is the third port in Oman, along with the Port of Sohar and Salalah. Sohar, which is also located outside of the Strait of Hormuz, comprises three main clusters – logistics, petrochemicals and metals while Salalah is primarily a container and dry cargo terminal.
‘Duqm, being a fully integrated special economic zone, can take advantage of international markets, while Sohar primarily serves local and hinterland markets and Salalah focuses on the export of locally produced minerals and offers particular container liner services,’ says Mortelmans.
The port, which started operations in break bulk in 2012 before moving onto dry bulk last year, has ambitions to become one of the
largest dry bulk handling ports in the region.
‘The recently awarded contract to dredge the nothern basis of the port will unlock Duqm’s potential as an alternative hub for future liquid
bulk storage and handling activities.
‘We need to be flexible and Duqm, as a greenfield project, offers lots of opportunities. We very much plan to make sure that we don’t
miss any opportunity.’