Muscat: Sohar port, which last week received the first 10,000 twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) ship belonging to APL shipping line, is planning to expand its container terminal capacity by building another large terminal.
The port is planning to develop Terminal D, which will have a container handling capacity of almost five million TEUs per year, Andre Toet, chief executive officer of Sohar Industrial Port Company, told Times of Oman. However, the details of the expansion are yet to be worked out.
The Oman International Container Terminal (OITC), which manages Sohar Port's container terminal, has started operation at Terminal C, which will enhance container handling capacity to 1.5 million TEUs from 800,000 TEUs. The whole work at Terminal C will be completed by 2015, said Capt Rashid Jamil, chief executive officer of the OICT. For building terminal C, OICT earlier signed the development agreement early last year for expansion of a 70-hectare container terminal.
The development, which is now implemented in a phased manner, will see yard space more than double from 28 hectares, installation of seven post-Panamax quay cranes and 14 rubber-tyre gantry cranes.
The investment in the new expansion totals $130 million, and the state-of-the-art facilities, new technology and port depth will mean the current maximum vessel size will increase from 6,500 TEU to in excess of 10,000 TEU.
Many of the world's most renowned shipping companies such as Maersk Line, UASC, CMA and APL already operate from the existing container terminal of Sohar port. These recent developments enable shipping lines to bring their mainline vessels directly into Oman. Maersk Line was the first to shift commercial activity from Muscat to Sohar.
In fact, a new sugar refinery and a food grain handling facility (of Oman Flour Mills) will come up close to Terminal B and therefore, it will be exclusively used by these two units.
However, the authorities claimed that the present port facilities are more than enough to handling Muscat port's additional volume. The government has given August this year as deadline for shifting all commercial activities of Muscat port to Sohar.
Responding to some of the teething problems anticipated by Shipping agents due to lack of facilities for handling loose cargo in Sohar, Capt Jamil said; "We are working on to take care of this problem with our partners. It will be ready by December. However, in June, we will make some temporary arrangements. We are also working with customs department to facilitate all movements."
Shipping agents have also requested the concerned authorities to retain a customs documentation office in Muscat, since majority of importers or customers are based in Muscat. A customs office in Muscat will ease the work of shipping agents.
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