Sohar Port 'ideal' for bulk mineral exports.
Muscat: Khimji Ramdas Shipping joined hands with TM International Logistics, India (a subsidiary of TATA Steel) to operate the bulk mineral terminal at Port of Sohar and develop the temporary terminal at Berth No. 16.
The temporary terminal had been made ready by April 2012 and is geared to handle about 3MMTPA of Ghabro using ship's gear for loading. It has about 45,000 square metre area for storage of Ghabro (aggregate) prior shipment and if all ships gear properly function, they can achieve about 10,000--12,000 tonnes of loading per day.
The consortium entered into contracts with local shippers for exporting aggregates to the tune of 2MTPA. The first shipment arrived towards end of May 2012 and the first vessel called on the facility on July 1, 2012 marking a new beginning and engraving a chapter for export of bulk minerals through a dedicated terminal facility.
However, in spite of all enthusiasm from the quarry owners, there was a very slow reaction with only four shipments totalling 177,000 tonnes having been shipped through the facility in the last six months.
Also, since the exporters from Oman are new to the trade of low commercial value material and perhaps unaware of the charges associated with vessel chartering, they may have entered into contracts on C&F basis, resulting in cost escalation due to demurrage arising out of delays at the unloading point.
Oman has Ghabro material in abundance and Sohar Port addresses the requirement of exporters to sell the same to the nearby market, with Qatar being the majority importer of such type of products. Qatar alone has an established demand of about 18-20MMTPA of aggregates, rising to about 30MMTPA.
Qatar sources about 14-15MMTPA through Fujairah. Importers from Qatar have been looking keenly towards Omani sources to bridge the gap in demand. Omani producers are yet to gain confidence and tap the established export market. Sohar port with its deep draft and no port congestion is a great advantage for the exporters from the region.
However, they are yet to exploit the opportunity. Sohar Industrial Port Company along with Ministry is committed to facilitate the trade which will eventually boost the mineral trade of the country.
MC Jose, CEO, Khimji Ramdas Shipping, said that they have a strong partner from India, who is committed to fulfilling the commitments given. The consortium is focused to provide the facility; however, if the market does not improve, it will be a big set-back.
He also feels that government agencies may have to step in to consolidate the quarry owners and help them market the product into Qatar which will have a growing demand at least until 2020.
Muscat Press and Publishing House SAOC 2012
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