The Omani port of Salalah achieved strong growth in both container and general cargo traffic flows over the first half of the year.
Salalah’s container terminal handled 1.763 million teu in this period, 10% more than in the same period of 2017. This is attributed to strong support from one of its major customers, despite challenging business conditions.
The general cargo terminal in the port handled 7.595 million tons of traffic in the first half of the year, which represented an upturn of 12% compared to the first six months of last year. The terminal mainly handles limestone, gypsum, methanol and cement, which are exported from Salalah to local Gulf markets. Dry bulk cargo throughput rose from 5.45 million tonnes in the first half of 2017 to 6.16 million tons in 2018. Liquid bulk volumes remained more or less the same, while there was a 50% increase in the volume of bagged goods traffic.
General cargo terminal revenues increased by 17% over this period, the Port of Salalah reports, while container terminal revenues were up by 4%. The net profit across both facilities was OR 767,000 (US$ 1.98 million), more than double the OR 303,000 (US$ 0.79 million) recorded in the first half of 2017.
Despite these positive results, the Port of Salalah strikes a cautionary note in its report to shareholders, as a result of Cyclone Mekunu, which hit the port towards the end of May. Significant parts of the container terminal were submerged under around 2m of water, which deposited silt and debris across the facility.
The Port says that despite taking reasonable precautionary measures to safeguard people and property, Cyclone Mekunu caused significant damage to port equipment and infrastructure. While operations have now been partially restored, two berths at the container terminal and two more at the general cargo terminal remain unavailable. These restrictions, coupled with a reduction in harbour draft and reduced equipment availability, are hindering the port’s ability to resume pre-cyclone throughput levels.
The Port of Salalah has put together a recovery plan to restore operations, but there are critical areas that require further investigation to assess the full extent of the damage that has been suffered. The management team indicates that it aims to recover the volumes lost as a result of the storm during the fourth quarter of the year.
The company highlights the fact that US trade policy, and the reimposition of sanctions on Iran, is likely to have a negative effect on some elements of world trade, but there could be some positives for Salalah. Ahmed Bin Nasser Al Mahrizi, chairman, Salalah Port Services, concludes, “Traditionally the Port of Salalah has fared well during times of global economic uncertainty. While it is too premature to predict the full breadth of the impact, for now the port seems to be well positioned with our current customers and business partners.”