Atkins won the contract to investigate the potential for revamping the commercial port and converting it into a tourist port with a cruise ship terminal.

Atkins submitted a bid of OR902,500 ($2.3m) to carry out the study. Other companies that submitted bids include Australia’s WorleyParsons and India’s Consulting Engineering Services.

The company will present its conclusions to the Transport & Communications Ministry by the end of 2009. The contract could then be extended to include two further phases.

“The first phase will be the study looking at whether to change the port and, if so, to what,” says one senior Omani ports official.

“If the proposals are approved by the government, [Atkins] will draw up a masterplan for the project; if that is approved, it will carry out a detailed design.”

The study supersedes previous plans to increase container capacity at the port from 280,000 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) to 1 million. Those plans were dropped in 2008 (MEED 5:12:08).

Available space at the current site has been severely limited as the city has developed around the port, and the surrounding access roads have become increasingly congested in recent years.

No decision has yet been made on where to move the capital’s container traffic if Sultan Qaboos is changed into a tourist port. A greenfield site outside the capital or the development of new container facilities at the nearby Sohar Industrial port have been mooted.