Ushering in a new era

Shell Oman and Omanoil ink agreements to set up the Port of Sohar’s first bunker operation for marine fuel

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By June 2010, the Port of Sohar will establish a world-class facility for supplying marine fuels of different grades to the vessels calling at the port or staying at the extended anchorage close to the international shipping route at the Strait of Hormuz.

In a major move that will enhance services at the Port of Sohar, H E Maqbool Ali Sultan, Minister of Commerce and Industry and chairman of Sohar Industrial Port Company (SIPC) along with CEO Jan Meijer signed agreements with Shell Oman Marketing/ Shell Marine Products and a joint venture between Oman Oil Marketing Company (OOMC) and Matrix Marine Holding GmbH (Matrix Marine) in January this year to set up the port's first bunker operation for marine fuel.

The facility will become operational by mid-2010. The initial demand projected for the first year of operation is around 265,000 tonnes of marine fuel, which is expected to grow at the rate of 20 per cent every year.

To begin with, the Port of Sohar will offer bunkering service via the barge inside the harbour basin and at its anchorage area. The onshore bunker facility will be established at a later stage.

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SIPC commercial manager Robert Boonk says the decision to introduce the service was taken to meet the requirements for attracting additional vessel traffic to the port. While over 1,000 vessels have touched the Port of Sohar in 2009, he expects the numbers to swell significantly after the launch of bunkering services later this year.

To enhance the port's overall service level and further develop our anchorage area, we are also in the process of implementing additional services like supply of fresh water, spare parts and lubricants," adds Boonk.

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Faisal al Hashar, managing director, Shell Oman, says his company is geared to meet the current demand and will be building capacity with the growth of the port.

"This bunkering facility would not only cater to the needs of the visiting vessels but also provide quality fuel bunkering service to passing vessels. Product quality and speed of service are the unique prepositions of the Port of Sohar's bunkering facility when compared to that of other ports in the region."

Shell Oman has experience, internationally and locally, in marine fuel and lubricants business and maintains a fuel bunkering facility at Port Sultan Qaboos and marine lubricants supply in Salalah.

"Our focus will remain on sustenance and differentiation of product and services through customer value proposition, people and portfolio. As always, customer service shall remain the centrepiece of our execution strategy," adds al Hashar.

For OOMC, this is the first such licence issued by an Omani port. Officials estimate that the demand could be around 40mn litres per month. Omar Qatan, CEO, OOMC, says the collaboration with Matrix Marine will bring in knowledge, experience and expertise in establishing the bunkering services.

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Says Ahmad K Mahmud, general manager (aviation & marine), OOMC, "The bunker service provision will attract ship owners to bunker their ships at the port and therefore further enhance the port competitiveness in the region." He adds marine fuel will initially be sourced from regional bunkering hubs and transported directly to customers at the Port of Sohar via bunker barge.

Stefan Herde, managing director of Matrix Marine, says he considers it a privilege to be a part of establishing a first class bunker service in a growing port like Sohar. "We believe that the bunkers offered by Oman Oil and Matrix Marine together will contribute further to the successful development of the port and that our service will attract additional vessel traffic to Sohar."

Meijer says the agreements are a sign of the growth of the Port of Sohar, which has witnessed a substantial increase in the number of vessels calling the port during 2009. The increase in liquid bulk and dry bulk as well as containers contributed to this growth. Oman International Container terminal showed a 200 per cent growth in containers: from 30,000 TEU to almost 100,000 TEU.

The contracts were awarded after a thorough competitive global tendering process for selecting the most qualified operators for offering these services. With a spurt in the number of industries as well as modern expanding terminals, Port of Sohar has developed from a port under construction into a fully operational one. The development of the services offered keeps abreast of the rapidly increasing number of ships calling the port.

"As the port authority and landlord of the Port of Sohar, SIPC stimulates additional services to facilitate imminent developments. Taking the requirements of vessels into account, it was only natural that, next to the existing services, the introduction of marine bunker fuels was considered," says a SIPC official. "

Ushering in a new era
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