Interview with H.E. Dr. Ahmed Al Futaisi, Minister of Transport and Communication, Oman


Could you please elaborate for our readers on the major changes in the aviation sector in Oman?

The country has a plan to develop the civil aviation sector in Oman, which mainly consists of developing five airports at once over the country. These are:

- Muscat, completely new, and Salalah – these two are the biggest ones. The three others are smaller in size and have specific tasks:
- Sohar is more industrial and economically oriented and is within the vicinity of the ports and the free zones.
- Ras al-Hadd is meant for tourism. It is a beautiful area and we want to promote tourism there.
- Duqm

The construction of all of them has been underway since 2010-2011. So far, we have been able to officially inaugurate Salalah airport, which is very well received, beautiful and modern. Also, we finished all of the runways in all of the five airports. In the regional airports, Sohar and Duqm, we started operating, using a smaller terminal.

In Muscat airport, some of the facilities are already working: the new runway, the tower, the civil aviation buildings, the air traffic controllers, the meteorology building… All these facilities contain the most advanced equipment. We have finished the roads connecting the airport with the neighboring areas. From the outside, it is almost finished and we are hoping to finish the entire construction by the end of 2016.

Opening will be a major milestone and a new transformation for the first gateway to the country. People will be really surprised and impressed by this modern facility. It is up-to-date, but we have also kept a cultural element.

Another important development is that we will start to benefit from such infrastructure by allowing investors to utilize these infrastructures. This year, we launched a tender for a second airline carrier in the country beside Oman Air. We have decided that it should be a low-cost carrier and we hope to announce more information about who the winner of this new service will be by the end of the year, the. It will be followed by an other tender for general aviation, helicopters services, aviation taxis, ambulances and private jets. We will start promoting all of these services to the private sector or through PPPs. We are working on adding value. Also, we are launching a tender for a second ground handling operator in Muscat, and then, for another in a second airport.

Instead on relying only on the government, the country is becoming more and more open to private-sector investments. We want these people to partner with us and to contribute towards and to develop civil aviation. This is a major shift in the country.

Also, now we have a Civil Aviation Authority, which is separated from the Ministry of Transport, to give it more importance. We want this authority to concentrate on developing all the regulatory part for this new coming operator in the field. We are also continuing to improve training (human capital development) in anticipation of future developments in the sector. Many jobs have been offered in the last few years. Munich airport assists us in providing all the training plans, and they have helped us a lot to improve our ability to go from a small terminal to a very big modern one. We are very thankful to them. We are not only working on the material aspect (the buildings) but also on the human aspect of the development and the procedure. We want to cover all aspects. This very momentum is a second birth for the sector. It is similar to in the 70s, when we started developing this sector from scratch.


The country is really focusing on three deep-sea ports: Sohar in the north, Salalah in the south and Duqm in the middle. We want them to be equipped with huge mega structures, and to build all necessary activities and equipment around these. We are very proud of these three ports. They are world-class, and are capable of receiving the latest generation of ships, which are going to just get bigger and bigger. We anticipated this growth, and we can proudly say in Oman that we are more than able to welcome the biggest ships in the world.

We have transferred the commercial operations of Muscat to Sohar. Muscat is a very beautiful location and we want to work on the tourism aspect of the port. This migration happened in August 2014 and it is a major accomplishment.

We have developed a master plan for Port Sultan Qaboos, in Muscat, focusing on the concept of waterfront development with a lot of hotels, restaurants and cafés plus key docks dedicated to cruises, so that people have multiple incentives to come and enjoy Muscat. We have already developed the business and the financial plan, and we are planning to establish a company dedicated to the port’s development. It will be partly governmental, partly pension funded and partly private-sector funded.

The Ministry of Transport has just designed the masterplan and we will sign a concession agreement with a developer. It will be a very unique waterfront in the region. We have a wonderful authentic landscape with an amazing cultural richness. We want to develop the masterplan in four phases. Each phase will see the construction of one or two hotels, so the total hotels will be around six and they will be spread all over the port. It will take between eight and ten years to be finished and it will be the first tourist port in the country.

In terms of facilities, Sohar can absorb the new traffic; they even have extra capacity. Some companies still need to shift from Muscat to Sohar. It will soon be the main export/import port in the country.

We are making sure that all these ports are surrounded by airports, railways and free zones. We are working hard to have three major economic zones in the country.

We have developed the national logistic strategy, which has been approved by the Cabinet, and we are now working on the implementation of the same. This strategy states that we are well located and that we have good infrastructure; however, we have to admit that we are still lacking soft infrastructure. So, we know that we have to have to develop four major pillars: trade facilitation, human capital, technology and marketing. Over the next ten years, we want to work on these four pillars and we are extremely ambitious in this regard. Through the logistic strategy, we will endeavour to promote the transport sector in its entirety. We want to develop air cargo, to facilitate trade and encourage procedures that will unify the transports sector.


Oman has made impressive progress in developing a world-class road network, which is essential to create an Integrated Transportation Network.

In terms of roads, we are ranked very high globally by many indices worldwide. It is part of our national pride. We are working on more than 75 projects that are worth more than 75 million OMR. As soon as we finish this project, we will experience a big boost in the economy. Some of these roads are express highways. We want to link our main cities and our economic center, for example Muscat and Sohar. We hope to complete them and to benefit from them.

Beside this, we consider that traffic congestion is becoming more and more of a problem, so we consider that public transport is now a necessity in Muscat. We are developing a plan.

In the first two years, and this is a process underway since last November, we want new modern buses to connect the main roads.

In the following two years, we will start feeding these main tracks from the inside of the city to the main station of the street.

So, in the next four years, we will be gradually adding new buses, new stops and developing services.

The step after that will be to develop a light rail system. The construction could start in around seven years. So, we have a plan; we have divided the execution between three parties: - The Ministry will take charge of all of the policies and the regulation of the sector. - The Company, that we call Muasalat, (an Arabic word which means public transport) will take charge of all the operations. - Muscat municipality will do all the work on the ground; the street infrastructure and the stations.

We strongly believe that public transport will not be successful unless there is a dedicated lane for buses; so, we are also working on designing dedicated bus roads. Meanwhile, we will develop the regulatory framework for this sector.

We are also seriously working on a new regulation for taxis. If we want to promote Muscat as a destination, we really need to work with the taxi sector in order to improve service and their image.

As you can see, we have just started developing public transport and we have ambitious plans and still have a long way to go.


We have an internal network in Oman but our main objective is to fulfill our dream of connecting all the GCC citizens together and connecting Muscat to Kuwait or Riyadh, plus major cities beyond. It is a huge project and we started a dedicated company, Oman Rail. They have grown very well and have developed very strong technical capabilities. They have designed almost the entire network in the country, and the design (or the planned network) is on the verge of completion, and envisaged to be done by the end of the year. This is a major achievement. They have also worked on the first segment, from Sohar to Buraimi. International contracts are written for it, and we have had an evaluation; we are almost ready to announce the winner of this first segment.

We are fairly far ahead compared to the other GCC countries, so now we need to decide whether we all start together. It is a matter of timing and we need to agree on it, but Oman is ready to start construction now.

In the meanwhile, we are also developing the commercial and operational capabilities of the company, and training for young Omanis to benefit from this. The real beginning will be when we award the first segment. It is a very expensive project and now, what with the oil price going down, we need to think long and hard about the financial model. The government can take part, but the private sector also has to play a role. It will definitely be a major shift in the country.


Economy, communication and IT are the backbone of any sector. In recent years we have made real headway in these areas. We have built up a policy for the coming 5 years and we are focusing on broadband and the internet. This new regulation of the communication sector will also contribute to opening the sector. We now have a broadband strategy, concentrating on three types of technology:

- We set incentives to bring fibers to the homes; we want it to be a long-term technology.
- The next step is outside the cities (the major population); we want to develop mobile broadband. We plan to try to convince the main operators to provide and increase the network and broadband.
- Then in rural areas, which the operator cannot reach or where it is economically not viable to, we want to use satellites.

Our strategy is a mix of fiber, mobile and satellites. It is very balanced. We started implementing this strategy by creating Oman Broadband Company, and their role is to spread fibers to the Capital. They are also drawing on the other infrastructure project mentioned. This broadband company will take charge of all infrastructure. They will not provide the retail service; they will sell to the operators. Also, they have to help operators to connect their fiber to the closest tower to the operators, and then the operators will provide mobile technology to the villages around the tower. For a long time, this sector has relied upon the development of the two operators. Now we are stepping up, in terms of fiber, and it this an important development nation-wide.