A subsidiary of Ningxia China-Arab Wanfang in Oman has started mobilising for the industrial city it plans to develop in Duqm, according to a spokesperson of Oman’s Special Economic Zone Authority of Duqm (Sezad).

Oman Wanfang signed a $3.7bn, 30-year deal with Sezad in 2016 to rent and develop 1,170 hectares of land within the special economic zone.

The firm will develop the infrastructure in the designated area in cooperation with other Chinese investors. “The initial plan includes the construction of 5-star hotels, and manufacturing facilities for glass, steel and photovoltaic (PV) solar panels,” says Jalal Abdul Karim Ali al-Lawati, promotion manager at Sezad.

Apart from the deal with the Chinese group, Al-Lawati said the Oman Investment Fund and Qatar Investment Fund are engaged in exploratory talks for a large bus assembly plant in Duqm.

Separate talks are also being conducted with Iran’s Khodro for a car assembly unit within the zone, and with Indian pharmaceutical companies.

The 2,000 square-kilometre Duqm special economic zone (SEZ) is being developed to boost the economy of Oman’s central Al-Wusta governorate. Unlike the country’s southern and northern regions, the governorate is underdeveloped, and Sezad is tasked to create a city that includes residential, commercial and industrial complexes.

Apart from attracting investors, a key concern for Sezad is the availability of gas, according to Al-Lawati. They are looking at the completion of the Duqm refinery project in 2019, when a gas pipeline is expected to become available.

The planned mineral railway is also expected to benefit the SEZ. Raw minerals such as dolomite and gypsum can be carried by rail from the mining sites to the SEZ, where they are processed into end products such as glass, and then exported to international markets through the port of Duqm.

Sezad is undertaking major infrastructure development with several contracts for the development of roads and other facilities under bidding.

It attracted investments worth $1.24bn in 2016, exclusive of the deal with Wanfang.