Oman releases details of new special economic zone

January 17th, 2009 - 5:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Dubai, Jan 17 (IANS) Oman has released details of a new special economic zone (SEZ) that is being set up in partnership with strategic international investors including an Indian infrastructure development firm. The Sohar Special Economic Zone, a joint venture between the Oman government’s Sohar International Development Company, India’s SKIL Infrastructure and the Netherlands’ Port of Rotterdam, would come up in four phases across a 4,500-hectare area near the port of Sohar, 240 km northwest of the Omani capital Muscat.

At a function Friday to mark the opening of the new head office of Sohar Industrial Port Company (SIPC), which operates and manages the port of Sohar, it was announced that the new SEZ would become a new global hub of downstream industries, logistics and business services.

Quoting officials of the SEZ, the Oman Daily Observer reported that in the first phase, 500 hectares would be developed for industrial and petrochemical projects, warehousing and logistics services and soft investments like educational and medical facilities.

The SEZ authorities are planning to offer several incentives to attract local and international investors.

These include a policy of no minimum capital requirements, 100 percent foreign ownership, free repatriation of capital and profits, relaxed corporate tax holiday, competitive land lease tariffs, and duty exemptions on imports and exports.

Permits and approvals would be processed expeditiously through a one-stop-shop arrangement, according to the Observer report.

Investors would also “enjoy a host of competitive advantages by virtue of the SEZ’s strategic geographic location outside the Strait of Hormuz, and its access to world-class logistics”, the report stated quoting officials.

Another major advantage is the port’s proximity to the markets of the Gulf, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent.

Plans are also afoot to have a new international airport and a railway system in the area.

In May last year, Mumbai-based SKIL Infrastructure, Port of Rotterdam and the Omani government had signed the agreement to set up the new joint venture.

Under the agreement, the three partners will serve as the Sohar SEZ Authority till the year 2043.

SKIL (formerly Sea King Infrastructure Ltd) has been involved in infrastructure development work in India since the early 1990s.

The new SEZ is also expected to create employment for people living in the Batinah region where Sohar is located and enhance foreign direct investment in the Port of Sohar area.

It is also expected to shift the area’s economic dependence to the non-energy sector.

Friday’s function was attended, among others, by Prince of Orange and heir apparent to the Dutch throne Willem-Alexander, Oman’s Minister for Commerce and Industry and Chairman of SIPC Maqbool bin Ali Sultan, SIPC chief executive Jan Meijer and chief executive of the Port of Rotterdam Authority Hans Smits.

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