ABU DHABI // Oman's efforts to diversify its economy took another step forward yesterday when it invited bids to build an international airport at the coastal city of Duqm, 600km south of Muscat, which will support a host of tourism and industrial projects in the remote coastal area. The airport, which will be the country's third international hub after Muscat and Salalah, has an estimated project cost of $200 million (Dh734m).
"It's difficult to say how much the airport would cost but the government has set aside a budget of around $100 to $200 million for this project," a tender board official said yesterday. An earlier construction phase of the airport project, covering the initial earthworks, was put out this summer and has already received 10 bids from construction firms from Oman, India, South Korea, Greece, Iran and Turkey. The lowest bid for this phase came in at $70 million from a local contractor, according to MEED Magazine.
The Government of Oman plans to inject vast sums of money into the Duqm region. The travel and tourism sector will be boosted by new hotels, resorts and public beaches along this coastal area. Last year, the Sultanate received 650,000 tourists throughout the country, including many on chartered tours from Europe, and it has outlined broad goals to increase that number dramatically over the coming years.
Under the development plans of Oman's Supreme Committee for Town Planning, private developers are also set to build residential projects along Duqm's coast. The region will also one day be home to a large industrial and free trade zone in a bid to stimulate Oman's trade and industrial sector. A total of 21,000 hectares has been allocated for industrial development at Duqm, including a refinery, petrochemical complex and fisheries facilities. The adjoining free trade zone is envisaged as taking up more than 1,000 hectares, according to local news reports.
At Ras Duqm, located seven kilometres from the town of Duqm, a new port will connect the region's refineries and industrial plans. Under the plans, the port complex will cover an area of 1.2 million square metres and handle bulk cargo ships of up to 100,000 tonnes. Repair facilities such as dry docks and floating repair docks are also planned to service the oil and gas tankers that regularly ply the Oman coast en route to the Strait of Hormuz and on to the Arabian Gulf.
The projects are just some of the many planned for Oman after witnessing its neighbouring GCC member states rapidly modernize their economies through tourism, property and industrial projects. Muscat International Airport is set to be transformed from its current capacity of five million passengers a year to being able to accommodate 48 million passengers through a $2.5bn expansion project. The plans call for new passenger terminals, a new runway, air traffic control tower, shopping arcades and hotel.
The first phase, including the first terminal and the second runway, will be complete by the end of 2010. Additional work is being done at Salalah Airport to accommodate up to one million passengers annually by 2011. At Sohar, located 240 kilometres north of Muscat, the Government has also committed billions to develop its industrial capabilities. Oman has already poured $12bn into developing a top-class port at Sohar capable of handling ships with a draught of 16 metres. The port and industrial zone is being separated into three regions, for logistics, petrochemicals and metals. The zone has already received commitments for investment by companies such as Alcan, Hutchison Port Holdings, MAN Ferrostaal, and Shadeed Iron & Steel, according to the port's website.
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