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SOHAR, Oman: Sohar Port and Freezone reports a 58 percent increase in TEU traffic following the closure of Muscat's container handling facility.

CEO Andre Toet said break bulk cargo has risen 51 percent and the port handled 122,000 cars in the past 12 months cars following a deal with distributor Saud Bahwan Group to store Toyota and Lexus vehicles in the Freezone. The facility is already used by Suhail Bahwan Automotive to store Nissan and BMW vehicles and OTE to land Hyundai cars. Toet expects Sohar to handle 200,000 vehicles this year.

Sohar port CEO Andre ToetToet also announced Sohar has signed a contract with Dubai-based Centre Point Logistics (CPL), to take 50,000 sq.mt. In the Freezone for the expansion of its logistics, warehousing, and storage facilities.

CPL chairman Saleh Saeed Lootah said: "With our local and regional growth and changing dynamics of UAE logistics and supply chain market, there has arisen a more challenging business environment that needs 'out-of-the-box' thinking in order to provide more tailored solutions that meet the changing needs of customers."

Commenting on a contract with Sohar Flour Mills and the construction of a new facility with a 500 tonne daily capacity, Toet said the port can become an important conduit for food manufacturers to reach Middle East markets at a fraction of the current cost.

"Growing populations and a 90 percent dependence on food imports is a perfect recipe for growth; the value of regional food markets will hit US$53 billion in 2020. This offers great returns for the industry, but it is also increasing the region's food bill. Part of the challenge is operating costs in big cities, and our aim is to harness our location, connectivity, and rates to cut the cost of putting food on tables," he explained.

"On top of not having to pay the additional costs of passing through the Strait of Hormuz, land and energy rates at Sohar are very competitive when compared with other ports and distribution centres across the region. Oman's Free Trade Agreements with the U.S. and Singapore also offer potential costs savings that are not so readily available in some other parts of the region, especially its FTA with the US," he added.

With the construction of a grain storage facility, a sugar refinery, two manufacturing plants for packaging materials and the flour mill, Toet said Sohar aims to be Oman's premier facility for importing food products for the country and the wider GCC region.

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