Oman has signed a memorandum of understanding with Salalah Port Services (SPS) to set up a free zone adjacent to the port, newspapers reported Tuesday.
Oman's Commerce Minister Maqbool bin Ali Sultan signed the MoU with Jack Helton, chief executive officer of SPS, the Oman Daily Observer said.
Development of the first phase of the Salalah Port Free Zone Co. project on 445 acres (180 hectares) was expected to begin early 2001, the paper said, adding that the Dallas-based Hillwood Development would partner SPS in the venture.
Maqbool described the move as a turning point in Oman's attempts to diversify its economy away from oil and to establish the nation as a true service provider to both regional and global markets.
"The interest of the international business community in Salalah is clear evidence of the important role Oman can play in the service sector, owing to its strategic geographic location, stable political structure and availability of natural resources and finance," the minister said.
SPS posted losses of more than five million dollars in 1999, its first operational year, after taking into account start-up costs.
The southern Omani port on the Indian Ocean handled some 649,000 twenty-foot equivalent units of containers, of which 470,000 were in the second six months of the year.
The port, which opened in November 1998, has four berths capable of handling a total eight vessels a day. It aims to become a trade center on the Europe-Asia shipping lanes, in competition with Dubai in the Emirates – MUSCAT (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )