New seas for Oman

The Government of the Sultanate of Oman has embarked on an ambitious plan to strengthen its economy and secure a prosperous existence for its people. A key part of this plan is the diversification of the national economy from oil to non-oil resources. In considering options for diversification the policy makers were able to draw upon the heritage of Oman as a maritime trading nation. Therefore the establishment of new Port facilities is seen as an essential requirement to enable the Sultanate’s vast natural resources to be developed in sustainable ways, while protecting its distinctive forms of heritage, culture and natural environment.

The Sultanate of Oman has a long and proud maritime history. Seafarers and traders have navigated its coastline for centuries. Deep water is generally found within five miles of the shoreline. Few offshore dangers exist, and where they do they are well charted. A preliminary study has already identified the potential for a number of economic and commercial activities, notably heavy industry, oil refining, petrochemical processing, minerals, small and medium scale manufacturing, logistics, warehousing, fisheries, and so on.

In 2001 the Government of the Sultanate of Oman selected Duqm in the Al Wusta region as the location for a new shipyard and port complex. The Port of Duqm will be one of the major ports in Oman due to its strategic geographical location, situated midway between Muscat and Salalah, on the Arabian Sea. This makes it an attractive destination for commercial shipping en route between Asian, European and Middle Eastern ports. The project is a catalyst for development locally and regionally within the Al Wusta region.The Port and Shipyard will boost the Omani economy in terms of diversification and creation of job opportunities for Omani citizens.

Royal Haskoning as the lead partner in a joint venture with Khatib & Alami and Partners and Al Baraka Economic Consultancy, (RH-KA JV) has been involved in the project since 2002. Its maritime engineers carried out the preliminary work involving a feasibility study, site investigation, environmental assessment, conceptual design, and master planning necessary to set in motion the Government’s vision to create one of the largest ports in Oman, covering an area of 135km² (52 square miles). The Dry Dock and Shipyard will be the first of its kind in Oman.

The shipyard and dry dock facilities can serve ships larger than the ‘ultra large crude carrier’ class weighing up to 600,000 DWT. The marine facilities include more than two kilometres of commercial quay, almost one kilometre (980m) of berths for Government use, a 4.1km long main breakwater, 4.6km lee breakwater and a 9.5km dredged channel with a depth of -19m below datum. The Port construction requires approximately: 18 million tonnes of rock, three times the weight of the Pyramid of Giza; 35,000 tonnes of steel, some five times the weight in the Eiffel Tower; and 1.8 million tonnes of concrete, approximately 16 times the weight in the Burj Khalifa.

The Joint Venture’s contract with MOTC covers detailed design, specifications and drawings for the marine facilities and associated infrastructure, including overall management, planning and supervision of construction.

Members of the team are based in five countries, making this a truly multi-national project. In Oman more than 20 staff supervise the marine works, eight staff including Omani engineering graduates are based in Muscat where they deal with project management and co-ordination. A larger team focuses on infrastructure design in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. The Netherlands has provided computer simulation and modelling expertise, and the UK is involved in maritime design and head office support.

Nabil Abdul-Rahim is the joint venture project manager. He explains: “In terms of skills we bring just about everything to the project. We provide the project management, financial management and cost estimating as well as all aspects of maritime design. Simulation and modelling have played a key role, including numerical and fast time modelling, using computer simulations to indicate the paths of different vessels under varying conditions.

“Infrastructure works, designed by our JV Partner, Khatib and Alami, include water supply networks, power supply, terminal pavement, drainage, roads and buildings. Design is ongoing and construction of these services is planned for completion in 2014.

“Environmental assessment has been important, as you would expect for a projectof this size. Our consultancy services included the preparation of an EIA, monthly monitoring, reviewing and checking the construction activities on site.”

The area is prone to tropical cyclones such as the recent Cyclone Phet. Challenges are also met by working four kilometres out at sea, particularly in summer where temperatures can reach in excess of 45ºC, which in itself presented challenges related to concreting and the need for an ice factory to cool the concrete; but Nabil is relaxed about these aspects of the job: “Every civil engineering project has its challenges because you are dealing with elements of nature that you cannot control. The difficulties we face here are nothing unique and we work through them as a team. In addition we face the challenge of partial start up of part of the Commercial Quay during the construction period.”

At the time of writing (August 2011), the project is ahead of schedule particularly the construction of quays and reclamation, which are some five months ahead of programme. One of the major factors contributing to this is the weekly co-ordination and management meeting between the client, consultant, contractor and stakeholders to discuss management, contractual, financial and other matters.

Nabil continues: “In addition to commercial end users, we have a large number of government users providing services such as: security, customs, fast ferry and marina. It has been an interesting challenge to ensure all their requirements are met by the design of the port and the government quay area to provide a good secure environment for the Port.

“The success of the project is the result of various factors, including, the approach to team working within Oman, championed by the Client, MOTC, and in particular the Director General, Eng Qassim Al Shizawi, with his continuing support and assistance in co-ordinating with the various Government departments involved in the project. The commitment from and quality of work produced by the Consortium Contractor, CCC/STFA/JDN, and in particular the Consortium Project Director, Eng Rizik Abu Middian, has also added to the success of the project. Furthermore the support of our head office staff, and in particular the project engineer Grant Peckham, has undoubtedly contributed to this success.“

The marine works are scheduled for completion in May 2012 and the provision of infrastructure will transform this section of the coastline, enhance the lives of local and regional communities, and provide the Omani Government with an invaluable commercial and strategic asset.

Purpose-built port for trade and industry
Driven by multinational joint-venture led by Royal Haskoning
Expected to be completed early next year