Muscat: A concrete decision to go ahead with the container terminal expansion of Salalah port, with an envisaged capital expenditure of $450 million, is expected to be taken by next year, said a top-level official of the port. As of now, the port has six container berths and the plan is to add three more berths — seven, eight and nine — to the existing facility, taking the total container handling capacity to nine million twenty foot equivalent units (TEUs) from six million TEUs.
"We have seen a growth of around 15 per cent till the third quarter of this year. If we can expect that again on a regular basis, we will need to activate the expansion next year, to have it completed by 2015," Peter Ford, Chief Executive Officer of Salalah Port Services told Times of Oman in an exclusive interview.
Since the port has grown 600 per cent since its inception, there has been an appetite to expand at regular intervals.
"The only question is how soon will we need to activate the investment. Right now our view is that it could be by the end of 2013 for taking a decision, thereafter it takes two years to complete," he explained.
Citing the reasons for the growth in container terminal volume, he said; "Our current customers continue to realise the value that Salalah offers. They have also grown significantly with us. One of the customers grew by over 40 per cent. We are working with one new customer in particular since we have identified $19 million savings to their network by utilising Salalah. All these customers have excellent feeder connectivity to the region. We essentially play as a hub for the Indian Ocean region basin – East Africa, India and the Gulf."
"We have hundreds of feeder vessels coming to Salalah every year to utilise the port as a centre to re-distribute cargo to the rapid growth markets."
Referring to the ongoing expansion of the general cargo terminal, he said it will add 1,200 meters of berth, along an already existing breakwater.
Currently, the cargo handling capacity of general cargo terminal is around seven million tonnes – split between dry and liquid cargos.
"The expansion will take it to 23 million tonnes of bulk and eight million tonnes of liquid cargo. We expect to finish the work by the end of 2013."
Ford said the additional cargo handling capacity would allow mining companies in Salalah to grow and do their business in a more efficient manner.
He said even traders who bring goods in containers from overseas markets for distributing it to East African markets by dhows will also benefit. "The dhows trade to East African markets with livestock and cement are major growth areas," he added.