MUSCAT: November 29, 2016. Oman has begun the process of devising a national economic plan to be less dependent on oil and gas revenue. While the current price of oil may be good news for the consumer, it's less so for the producer. Oman is no exception.
Called 'Tanfeedh', the country's program for economic diversification is designed to increase investment in manufacturing, tourism, transport and logistics, mining, and fisheries.
By 2020, the goal is to create more jobs for Omani youth and raise the contribution these sectors make to the country's GDP by US$12.7 billion.
In the logistics sector, the aim is contribute approximately US$5.2 billion to GDP and create 50,000 jobs in the next four years by building and extending rail and road capacity to improve regional connectivity; and enabling private/public partnerships.
According to Massimo Roccasecca, Cargo development director for the Oman Airports Management Company (OAMC), there's never been a better time or opportunity to do his job:
"Oman is actually in the favorable historical moment where the UAE was 15-20 years ago. There are important logistics development plans deeply supported by the government. One of them is to make Oman's airports among the top 20 in the world – so it's quite a challenge, but one I definitely welcome."
Roccasecca is a 20+-year veteran of the logistics industry having started with UPS as an area sales manager in Milan and over the next two decades held a number of management positions at TNT, Alitalia, SkyTeam, Cargolitalia, DAMCO, Maximus Air Cargo and Poste Italiane.
His job at OAMC is to get more international airlines using Muscat and Salalah for point-to-point imports and exports as well as transshipments – both air and sea/air.
The geographic advantage of Oman over its Upper Gulf neighbors in the GCC area is based on a trading history that is now being repeated, or at least echoed, suggests Roccasecca.
"In general terms I know that having mega airports and mega airlines just outside the porch may affect how you look at the country strategy and plan, And to some extent I may also say that I understand the doubt.
"However do we really have to take Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Doha as a reference point? Or compete with them? I'd say that Oman, having started quite some years later, has a particular advantage both in terms of geography and government commitment."
His current focus is to attract airlines to Muscat that are interested in cargo development, and not necessarily cargo-only airlines. This is reflected in ideas being considered under the Tanfeedh umbrella – how to make Oman's airports more attractive so customers can "recognize the difference," he explains.
One idea under discussion is to create a new cargo village at Muscat incorporating an international import, export, re-export, transshipment and express courier center. News that DHL Express signed an MOU with OAMC in November suggests this is more than an idea.
Also under consideration by Oman Air is a separate joint-venture business to dry lease three A330 freighters in a bid to develop an air cargo hub for imports, exports and transshipments supported by, and linked to, Free Trade Zones at the ports of Salalah, Sohar and Muscat.
At the same time OAMC plans to reduce Customs clearance at Muscat airport to an international standard of eight hours; increase cargo throughput by 20 percent year-on-year to 2020; and attain a Logistics Performance Index (LPI) ranking in the top 30 airports worldwide in four years.
Asked about his company's mission Roccasecca replies: "There is, generally, limited knowledge of the beauty of Oman, so promoting the 'Omani experience' is definitely a primary role. There are a lot of potential investment possibilities in this country. Air transport is the enabler that will help make them happen."