“Sohar will build on the Port of Rotterdam’s extensive experience with similar projects, like the massive Maasvlakte 2 land reclamation in the Netherlands, to achieve the best results during construction,” Geilenkirchen stated. Maasvlakte 2 is a massive civil engineering project involving the construction of a new port and supporting infrastructure on reclaimed land adjoining Maasvlakte. As an extension of the Port of Rotterdam, the project offers around 2,000 hectares of newly reclaimed land for container terminals and other investments — the difference being that the new ventures are operated on the principles of sustainability.
Sohar Port South (known earlier as the Majees Reclamation Project) is a key component of the Sohar 2040 Masterplan, which is currently under finalisation. When completed, it will give a substantial boost to the port’s ability to support the Sultanate’s aims to increase its diversification efforts, according to the CEO. Significantly, part of the reclaimed land that will form part of Sohar Port South has already been leased to “significant” new tenants under contracts signed last year, said Geilenkirchen.
Also expected to contribute to strong growth trends at the port are investments in the food and logistics clusters, he said. “The port was originally based around three industrial clusters: logistics, metals and petrochemicals. We recently added food as our fourth pillar with the launch of Sohar Food Zone, the region’s first dedicated agro terminal,” the CEO noted.
Earlier this year, Sohar Flour Mills revealed that it was preparing to launch work on a new 500 tonnes a day milling facility in the Food Zone, a new cluster coming up at the site of the now vacated Container Terminal B. The new mill is a joint venture between the UAE’s Essa Al Ghurair Investments and Aytab Investments of the Sultanate. The facility is due to be completed before the end of this year.
Also envisioned for development within the Food Zone are the Sultanate’s first sugar refinery and infrastructure for downstream food processing, packaging and logistics industries.
This new expansion phase at Sohar is expected to generate a further $8 billion worth of investment over the next five years, said Geilenkirchen. “There are certainly some external factors that are currently influencing growth: the general level of global economic uncertainty and historically low oil prices that are affecting all the GCC economies. However, those same low oil prices are acting as a catalyst to spur on economic diversification across the region.”
“The whole Middle East is moving from an economic base powered by oil and gas exports to one that is fuelled by knowledge, and this diversification is driving investment with an upside for our business in Sohar,” he added.