By Conrad Prabhu -
MUSCAT — The ongoing modernisation of the country’s air-transportation sector will position Muscat International Airport as the hub of a national air-cargo network integrated with airfreight terminals under construction at Salalah, Sohar and Duqm, according to a senior official of Oman Airports Management Company (OAMC).
Vic Allen, Acting CEO, said the air-cargo network, currently in various stages of development across the Sultanate, will provide strong impetus to what he described as the “explosive” growth potential of the air-cargo and logistics industry in Oman.
“We think the future looks extremely bright for airfreight and logistics in Oman. There is huge demand just around the corner. We can see explosive growth in airfreight and logistics when the new airports are ready, leading to huge opportunities for logistics — freight forwarders, warehousing, couriers, and so on,” Allen told delegates at the 3rd Annual TransOman Conference held at Grand Hyatt Muscat yesterday.
The two-day forum has been organised by OITE Conference under the auspices of the Ministry of Transport and Communications.
In his address on ‘Emerging Opportunities for the Airfreight and Logistics Business in Oman’, Allen underlined Muscat airport’s dominant role at the heart of a flourishing air-cargo industry in the future. The existing facility, capable of handling up to 100,000 tonnes of airfreight per year, will make way for a modern, state-of-the-art air-cargo terminal with a capacity of 260,000 tonnes per year in Phase 1, that can be ramped up to 500,000 tonnes per year in Phase 2.
Covering an area of 34,000 sq metres, the new air-cargo terminal will come up on a spacious site located between the modernised airport’s two parallel runways.
Unlike the existing facility, the new terminal will include 19,000 sq metres of temperature controlled space, and 2,200 sq metres of dedicated space for live animals. Airfreight volumes will be processed semi-automatically, in contrast to the manual process employed in the existing terminal.
A forward-looking master-plan drawn up by the government earmarks ample space for the long-term expansion and development of the airfreight and logistics business associated with Muscat International Airport, said Allen.
Set aside within the Eastern Development Area — one of three zones earmarked for commercial development around the airport – is a 50-hectare site allocated for business units and warehousing. Development of this site, which will boast all modern supporting infrastructure, is expected to commence within the next 2-3 years, he said.
“As the international gateway, Muscat will remain the hub of airfreight in Oman. Although Salalah, Sohar and Duqm will have their own independent airport cargo operations, they are expected to feed the Muscat hub at least initially. We also see great potential for air-to-air and road-to-air cargo services, as well as sea-to-air cargo in Salalah,” the official said.
At Salalah International Airport, the government is investing in a 100,000 tonnes per year air-cargo terminal which, like Muscat, will be equipped to process airfreight semi-automatically. Similar terminals of a capacity of 50,000 tonnes per year are also under development at Sohar and Duqm. Ample space has been allocated for logistics facilities at all the airports, he said.
Pending the completion of the new air-cargo terminal at Muscat, the existing facility is proposed to be expanded in the third quarter of this year, along with the enhancement of temperature controlled storage space. Last year, the terminal handled nearly 99,000 tonnes of airfreight and mail, just shy of its design capacity of 100,000 tonnes. Air cargo traffic has been growing at a healthy 27 per cent so far this year, said Allen.