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Port of Salalah spearheads growth at Oman terminals

Port of Salalah spearheads growth at Oman terminals
If the recent call of MSC Zoe is any indication, the 27.6% increase in container volumes recorded by Port of Salalah in the first half of 2016 is a sign of things to come.

The 19,224-teu behemoth, which stands alongside MSC sisterships Oscar, Oliver and Maya as the world’s largest operational boxship (by teu capacity), made its maiden call to the Omani gateway terminal just after the reporting period cut-off which saw Salalah handle 1.297m teu for the five months to May, up from 1.024m teu in the corresponding period.

But it was a significant milestone nonetheless, the Ultra Large Containership (ULC) surpassing the 18,340 teu Triple E Class Mayview Maersk as the largest containership to call in the Sultanate. It has also given Salalah a hefty kick-start to its second half stats as it eyes the total 2.6m teu handled in 2015.

Operated and 30% owned by APM Terminals, the Port of Salalah handled 1,362 vessel calls between January and May this year, a 70% increase from the 801 ships that called period-on-period in 2015 according to just released stats from Oman’s Ministry of Transport and Communications.

There was also 12% uptick in general cargo throughput from 5.3m tons to 5.93m tons for the five months to May.

Salalah, located 170km east of the border with war-torn Yeman but critically south of the Straits of Hormuz, is Oman’s gateway terminal and key transhipment hub on the main Asia-Europe trade route.

The port opened a new $143m, 1266mtr quay last December, increasing dry and liquid bulk capacity to 20m and 6m tons respectively. Its expansion plans will eventually see current container capacity doubled to 10m teu with the help of the new Etihad Railway Project which will connect the port to other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries upon completion. A multipurpose berth is also planned along with facilities for cruise liners, ferries and various government offices.

Meanwhile, Sohar Port saw 2.2%, 21% and 68% increases in vessel calls, container volumes and general cargo volumes respectively between January-May compared to the same period in 2015.

Specific teu figures for Sohar Port’s Oman International Container Terminal (OICT), which supplanted Port Sultan Qaboos, 200km south in the capital Muscat, as Oman’s container HQ in 2014, weren’t immediately available. However, it handled 975 vessel calls compared to 954 and 1.643m tons of general cargo compared to 980,000 tons in the same period last year.