MUSCAT - General cargo volumes handled at the Port of Salalah – a major regional gateway port and transshipment hub on the Arabian Sea – soared to a record General Cargo Terminal to a record 20.6 million tonnes in 2023, entailing a significant 12% jump from the previous year’s total of 18.4 million tonnes.

Keld Mosgaard Christensen, Chief Executive Officer, attributed the uptick in general cargo throughput to rising exports of gypsum and limestone, among other bulk commodities generated locally.

“The General Cargo Terminal (GCT) achieved a remarkable milestone reaching record volumes of 20.6 million metric tons (MMT), a 12% growth compared to the previous year. The general cargo business grew significantly in the first half of 2023, while the second half of the year was disrupted by adverse events, such as the impact of cyclone Tej and the situation in the Red Sea. GCT's ability to attain record volumes amidst these challenges underscores its effectiveness and strong foundation,” Christensen stated in the company’s Management Discussion and Analysis Report for fiscal 2023.

Containerised cargo throughput, on the other hand, slumped 16% to 3.8 million TEUs in 2023, down from 4.5 million TEUS a year earlier.

Reflecting on this downtrend, the CEO said: “The container terminal faced a series of challenges during the year, including the ongoing upgrade project, deployment of the new FLOW operational system, disruptions stemming from Cyclone Tej and the ongoing disruptions in the Red Sea/Gulf of Aden. However, the terminal showcased resilience and adaptability in navigating these challenges during the year.”

Work on the terminal upgrade project is progressing, with the first berth having been completed in 2023. Earlier this year, an initial batch of four quay cranes had also arrived for installation at the Container Terminal – part of an initiative to equip Salalah Port for the handling of mega containerships in the future.

The CEO stated: “The ongoing upgrade project will continue to constrain capacity during 2024 and is expected to go live in Q1 2025 with an increased capacity of 6 million TEU and ability to handle the biggest vessels in the world.”

The upgrade, first announced in October 2022, entails an investment of $66 million towards the construction of civil infrastructure necessary to support the installation of special cranes to handle Ultra Large Container Vessels (ULCVs) that are expected to begin arriving at the port starting from 2025.

A total of 10 cranes are proposed to be installed at the Container Terminal under lease from APM Terminals, one of the world’s largest port operating companies, which also owns a 30 per cent stake in Salalah Port Services (SPS).

At the same time, global shipping and logistics giant Maersk has pledged to channel large volumes of containers to Salalah Port by routing its mega containerships via the Omani hub. A mega containership is typically 366 metres long and capable of carrying over 14,500 containers.

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