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AS Oman seeks to develop its economy further, the logistics sector is seen playing a vital role and is key to increasing inward investment, non-oil exports and the nation's competitiveness.
Oman's logistics industry is expected to grow at a CAGR of 7 per cent between 2015 and 2020. The key drivers for economic growth are infrastructure investments in ports, free zones, industrial estates, roads, airports and rail network, economic diversification efforts and trade with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, as well as Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Oman has the benefit of being located on the strategic axis of the Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf, and boasts accessible trade routes and fast transit times to the world's most attractive emerging markets.
In terms of transportation connections, Oman is on the major international shipping routes and within two weeks of most major ports. It also has direct trade routes to the growing GCC market, India and Africa.
The Sultanate boasts excellent transportation infrastructure and offers three world-class deep sea ports and five state of the art airports as well as a top class road network. It also has abundant and competitive access to natural resources, energy, financing and labour.
Oman has direct access to the growing GCC market, with trade flows within the GCC estimated at over US$100 billon.
Oman has a key role in facilitating the GCC's trade connectivity through its FTA with the US as well as being part of the Ishqabad trade corridor. In addition, it is also part of the European Free Trade Association-GCC, Singapore-GCC, and has FTA negotiations with the EU, China, New Zealand and Australia.
Recognising the importance of the sector, the government has formulated the Sultanate of Oman Logistics Strategy 2040 (SOLS 2040).
SOLS 2040 is a programme developed by the Oman Logistics Center team of experts to outline a strategy for logistics to contribute to Oman's GDP growth.
It looks into the market share of goods that flow into the region, related employment growth, employment opportunities and job-creation, the position of Oman on various logistics and industrial indices, and the global perception of Oman in relation to logistics.
Oman Logistics Center (OLC) has a mandate which clearly aims to establish Oman as a global logistics hub by driving the implementation of SOLS 2040 in order to formulate a national markets development plan. It is also committed to coordinating and supporting trade facilitation reforms that drive the implementation of next-generation technologies as well as national human capital development efforts.
Market development is a key pillar of OLC strategy. The centre aims to formulate a market development plan at a national level and manage its implementation to achieve the SOLS 2040 goals and targets.
OLC will help provide market intelligence by publishing a sector tracker jointly with the National Center for Statistics and Information (NCSI), disseminating industry reports and preparing benchmarks.
The centre will also help to create competitive profiles and carry out tracking and analysis of industry trends. Other objectives include to define market segments by identifying and profiling priority sectors for potential development as well as potential opportunities in each sector. This includes identifying and targeting country and country-cluster geographies, and linking these to opportunities.
In order to accomplish this efficiently and productively, OLC maintains a sector- and geography-based opportunities database, as well as tailors programmes for anchoring international business.
It is committed also to ensuring competitiveness by efficiently managing the development of Oman's logistics value proposition which defines clear offerings, services and prices, while developing and optimising trade corridors. OLC is also continuously proactive in promoting an Oman global brand by taking the lead in driving awareness of the Sultanate as a premier global logistics hub.
To achieve this, OLC develops partnerships and communications plans with key stakeholders. As a result, it established an industry-wide growth task force, while broadening its reach through membership in regional and global industry associations and promoting FTA advocacy.
Trade facilitation is the key to unlocking latent logistics potential in any economy. Without it, cargo and therefore business will move elsewhere.
In developing the SOLS 2040 programme, the OLC team has set five goals. The first goal is to review and map all current processes for approvals for the import, export and transfer of goods across and within Oman's borders.
Secondly, efforts will be made to ensure that the logistics processes of government entities match or exceed the best global standards.
The third goal is to identify, recommend and implement practical or legislative changes to identified processes in order to substantially improve clearance accuracy and speed.
The fourth goal is to work closely with the director-general of customs in accelerating the processes for establishing, licensing and commencement of operations in Oman for domestic and foreign-owned logistics companies.
Finally, the OLC aims to enhance government and private sector relationships by working with both sectors to adjust legislation, and streamline and modernise existing legal processes in alignment with international law and practice.
Human capital development is another key pillar of SOLS 2040. OLC is committed to stimulating employment demand, enhancing work environments and capacity, and to creating partnerships in logistics and its related industries.
Logistics sector growth will be achieved and sustained by defining core logistics functions and roles and skillsets by sector, and measuring, monitoring and forecasting demand for the industry functions, also by sector.
In support of this, OLC is leading the development of performance criteria and training and education standards in alignment with the forecast and planned growth of the Oman logistics industry.
It aims to do this by reviewing international logistics training programmes and accreditation schemes and devising an integrated system of training standards, accreditation processes and procedures for logistics.
OLC also reviews all current logistics courses with a view to proposing or recommending change and encouraging and supporting the development of a professional logistics association.
By reviewing employment regulations affecting the various sectors of the logistics industry, and ensuring that employment legislation remains appropriate and that it matches or exceeds international practice, OLC also ensures that employment legislation supports the growth of the Oman logistics industry and only encourages its development.
In support of OLC's commitment to bolster logistics as a productive career, OLC is establishing a centre for logistics career information.
As part of this initiative, OLC will develop a data bank that will publish all logistics jobs and development opportunities, and put in place a logistics awareness programme within government, academia, schools and colleges.
Technology is also seen as a key strategic enabler of SOLS 2040. In focusing on improving and increasing utilisation of transport and logistics technology throughout both Oman's supply chain and the economy, OLC aims to identify and adopt innovative logistics technologies and leverage them to gain a globally competitive advantage.
In addition to this, OLC aims to establish a single-window and use mobile technology for 90 per cent of logistics services within five years through the use of track-and-trace systems.
Part of this initiative will involve identifying Oman's technologically competitive challenges and opportunities, providing an analysis of available technology data and needs, and defining the structure of Oman's logistics technology strategy.