A number of local and international urban engineering consultancy firms are bidding for a contract to master-plan the development of a new Special Economic Zone (SEZ) to be established at Al Rawdha in the Wilayat of Mahdha in Al Buraimi Governorate.

The SEZ initiative – the latest in a growing number of industrial and economic zones that serve as engines of the Sultanate of Oman’s long-term development – stems from Royal Directives issued earlier this year by His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik. As with all SEZs and free zones in the country, development of the new Al Rawdha SEZ will be overseen by the Public Authority for Special Economic Zones and Free Zones (OPAZ).

Covering an area of around 55 sq kilometres, Al Rawdha SEZ will seek to leverage, among other factors, its strategic geographical location in the north of the Sultanate of Oman, its proximity to economic powerhouses in the Gulf, and the modern road network connecting Al Mahdha with the rest of the country and other major markets in the region. Given these factors, the new SEZ is seen as well-placed to attract investments in commercial, residential, tourist and logistics related sectors, among other areas, it is pointed out.

In addition to master-planning the SEZ, the selected consultant will also conduct market and feasibility studies, and undertake the complete design of the zone as well. But this will be undertaken in three distinct phases, according to OPAZ.

As part of the first phase of the master-plan development, the consultant will be required to undertake a market study to explore the potential for investment in Tourism, Agriculture, Mining, Food Cluster, Light & Medium Industries and Logistics related projects and activities. This study will help with the zoning and land allocations within the SEZ. Other deliverables during this phase include a detailed master plan and feasibility study.

The submission of a detailed design and detailed cost plan is stipulated in the second phase, while the third phase will focus on the preparation of implementation plans and tender documents.

Significantly, OPAZ has pledged to develop Al Rawdha SEZ as a model of sustainable development that conserves the area’s environmental and social attributes.

Established by Royal Decree in August 2020, OPAZ currently regulates the Special Economic Zone at Duqm, Al Mazunah Free Zone, Salalah Free Zone and Sohar Free Zone. Earlier this year, its mandate was enlarged to include the development of first-ever free zones proposed at Muscat, Salalah and Suhar airports.


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Conrad Prabhu