Oman's government is investing heavily in the transport infrastructure improvements needed to support the Sultanate's ambitions for a diversified economy.
As Oman moves toward a more diversified economy, robust transportation infrastructure will be a core part of the government’s plans. Development plans calling for new industrial exports and a rise in tourism services depend on adequate transportation to make them possible, and to accomplish this the Omani government has taken action to launch a number of large-scale infrastructure projects. Port infrastructure to allow for new shipping routes is a priority, but there are also significant rail and air transport projects underway, all with the larger goal of increasing efficiency and bringing more economic activity to the Sultanate.
Oman’s location at the entrance to the Arabian Gulf makes it a strategically important site for shipments to Europe, Africa, and Asia; Muscat’s status as one of the Arabian Peninsula’s key trading ports dates back almost a thousand years. In recent years, though, Oman has remained an active transport in large part due to its hydrocarbons exports, its ports have slipped in prominence in favor of other larger and more economically significant Arab countries. Central to the Omani government’s infrastructure development, then, is renewed investment in the Sultanate’s ports in order to return them to prominence and benefit from Oman’s logistical advantages. The plan to revamp Oman’s port infrastructure encompasses all of the nation’s ports, but none is more ambitious than Duqm. Located on Oman’s southern coast, Duqm was historically a small fishing settlement until oil was discovered in the Al Wusta governorate. Over the past few decades, it has grown dramatically to become Oman’s primary oil shipping point, and the Omani government’s five-year development plan calls for further transformation. More than USD11 billion in investment is currently in the works for the port and the surrounding special economic zone, including the construction of a USD514 million liquid berth terminal, an expansion project that will raise capacity from the current 250,000 containers per year to 3.5 million, and a repair yard to handle increased volumes. If successful, the Duqm expansion—the largest such industrial project in Omani history—should turn the port city into one of the Arab world’s manufacturing and transportation hubs, bolstering the industrial sector and creating thousands of new non-hydrocarbon jobs.
Work is also underway to turn Oman’s airports into more efficient modern facilities able to handle the volumes the Sultanate hopes to attract by becoming a tourism and business destination. Built in 1973, Muscat International Airport is Oman’s primary international terminal, but it is well below international standards for passenger capacity and ability to handle large planes; the airport only added a second runway in 2016. The current expansion project, however, aims to add much-needed capacity. Originally scheduled to be completed in 2014, the project hit delays over labor and land acquisition issues, but officials announced that all problems were resolved and that final work on the refurbishment of the airport’s old runway should be completed by the end of 2017. The expansion will add a new 340,000sqm passenger terminal that will raise passenger capacity to 12 million per year. Just as importantly, it includes built-in space that Oman will use to continue expanding capacity to 48 million in three different phases.
Other airport facilities around the country are in the midst of similar expansion work. Duqm airport is undergoing a USD94 million expansion project designed to complement its industrial expansion and make the city a more viable site for business and tourism, and the Omani government is planning expansion in four other cities in order to create a more robust domestic air travel network. As with Muscat, these plans are designed for the long run; the development plan proposed by Oman’s main airport operator calls for more than 4,500sqm to be set aside surrounding these five airports to ensure that future expansion can be implemented smoothly. These grounds would be used for projects including flight schools, repair facilities, and free trade transport zones. Work on the majority of these projects is still ongoing, but the benefits are expected to arrive shortly; Duqm’s terminal expansion is expected to be completed by the end of 2017, giving 500,000 passengers a year the chance to access Oman’s fastest-growing industrial zone.