Tenders for the construction of a new sugar refinery at Sohar Port in Oman are expected to be issued soon.

Land leases are to be signed with Oman Sugar Refinery Company, the private investor behind the project, on 14 April. Once signed, various environmental permits will be applied for and the tenders will be prepared.  

Construction is expected to start late in the second quarter or early third quarter. UK-headquartered sugar company Tate & Lyle is already working with the Omani firm on the preliminary design plans.

Once complete, the sugar refinery will be capable of producing 1 million tonnes of sugar a year, which is roughly one-eighth of the total sugar consumption of the GCC.

The Oman Sugar Refinery Company has several investments in sugar estates in Tanzania. However, much of the raw sugar imported to the refinery will be bought on the global market and exported to both GCC and international buyers.

The refinery is being built in two phases, with the first phase being constructed on 10 hectares of currently available land at the port. The second phase will be built on land presently occupied by a container terminal.

A new container terminal is being built at the port, following the award of a $130m contract with Hong Kong-based Hutchinson Whampoa at the beginning of this year.

Sohar’s capacity will double to 1.5 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) from the existing capacity of 800,000 TEUs once the new terminal is finished.

Once complete, phase 2 of the sugar refinery project will start.

Other infrastructure projects taking place at Sohar Port include the construction of a new liquidity jetty. Companies have already been invited to prequalify for the contract. The details of the tender documents are being finalised and are due to be issued in the coming weeks.

Sohar is also attracting several new shipping lines, which is helping Oman boost its trade connections to Asia.

The Japanese shipping firm, Mitsui OSK Lines, commenced operations to the Omani container port in April as part of a new China-Middle East Express service offered by American President Lines (APL). A total of six vessels are being used on this route, with the Japanese company providing one of them. It is the first time Oman has had a shipping connection with Japan.

Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL), a subsidiary of Orient Overseas (International), a publicly listed company on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, is also due to join the APL service and will call at Sohar Port from the beginning of May.