Major logistics hub planned in Batinah South
By Conrad Prabhu — MUSCAT — Oman’s government plans to establish a major logistics hub in Batinah South Governorate — a move that promises to further drive the Sultanate’s ambitions to emerge as a logistics gateway for the wider region. As with all major initiatives of strategic significance, the project is currently being conceptualised by the Supreme Council for Planning before it transitions to the government ministry concerned — very likely the Ministry of Transport and Communications — for implementation. Integrated with the Batinah Expressway and the Oman National Rail Network, the logistics hub will cater for both truck and rail-based freight transportation, enabling the speedy, efficient and economical movement of goods to and from Sohar Port right up to the doorstep of the capital. As the first project of its kind in the Sultanate, it will also provide strong new impetus to socioeconomic development and employment generation across this populous geographic belt of Oman.
According to officials, the Batinah South Logistics Hub has two primary underlying objectives. Firstly, it is designed to facilitate the relocation of logistics related activities within Muscat Governorate, particularly from Wadi al Kabir and Ghala Industrial East. This shift will not only ease traffic congestion in these heavily developed areas of the capital, but also free up valuable land that for other purposes necessary to the needs of the growing population. Secondly, the proposed hub will help support the planned relocation of commercial shipping operations from Muscat’s Port Sultan Qaboos to the Port of Sohar. Planned roughly at the halfway mark between Muscat and Sohar, the hub will alleviate an inevitable increase in freight transportation costs that importers and exporters will likely shoulder upon the conversion of Port Sultan Qaboos into a tourism port.
Furthermore, a logistics hub in Batinah South Governorate, it is pointed out, will help attract investments in warehousing and logistics that will serve not only Muscat Governorate, but also the Batinah South and North governorate — three governorates that hosts nearly half of the population of the country. It is proposed that the logistics hub will be connected with the Port of Sohar with a High-Capacity Speed Shuttle complete with a dedicated truck lane designed to cater to multi-haul trailers capable of hauling up to four 20-foot shipping containers at a time. Connectivity by rail is also envisioned. A suitable location adjoining the Batinah Expressway in Batinah South Governorate has been identified for the implementation of the ambitious scheme, it is learnt. An earlier master-plan study commissioned by the Supreme Council for Planning identified significant potential for investment opportunities stemming from the development of the logistics hub in the area.
To help move the project forward, the Supreme Council is now preparing to appoint a qualified consultant to undertake an assessment of the socioeconomic spinoffs that will arise out of the project. A number of prominent local and international consultants are bidding for the consultancy contract. A key part of the selected consultant’s brief is to evaluate the project’s beneficial impacts in the form of employment generation, income opportunities for businesses, reductions in logistics costs, and so on. The project’s potential to attract investment in retail businesses serving the hub will be quantified as well. Infrastructure requirements in the form of utilities, schools, healthcare centres, housing, waste management and public transportation, will be assessed as well as part of the socio-economic study.
— Observer Special Projects