U.S. businesses sought as long-term partners for Oman Rail project

Project leaders for the proposed Oman Rail, the diesel-powered national railway network poised to transform the Gulf region, seeks a multitude of long-term American business partners to complete what will become a key geostrategic multi-modal shipping hub connecting the GCC, East Africa, Asia and Europe.

“The opportunities are vast and imminent,” said Paul R. Malik, deputy chief of mission of the U.S. Embassy, during a recent webinar highlighting the opportunities for U.S. businesses, particularly small- and medium-sized enterprises.

“Helping U.S. businesses become part of this project is a priority of the president and the administration,” said John Lesniewski, the project team’s chief commercial officer. “Our vision is to develop a railway so that Oman becomes the region’s gateway,” a massive endeavor requiring significant expertise from a variety of businesses.

Currently, no rail expertise, equipment production, or services currently exist in Oman, where the government hopes to retain as much as possible of the estimated $25 billion USD cost of the project in-country.

“We hope American suppliers will step forward as long-term partners for technology, skill, and knowledge-sharing,” Abdulrahman al-Hatmi, CEO and project director of Oman Rail, said during the webinar.

Particularly valuable, said Michael Darby, chief operation officer for Oman Rail, would be companies that could assist with the existing environmental concerns. For instance, in addition to the heat and sand, the terrain features challenging soil and rock formations and mountain ranges. “If you could help, it would be happily accepted,” he said.

Specifically, Oman Rail seeks suppliers and investors for numerous activities ranging from civil works (tunneling, bridges, and earthworks); ballast; sleeper and track production and laying; electro-mechanical, switching, and signaling solutions; rolling stock construction and maintenance; haulage logistics and operations; to station, workshop and yard construction and maintenance.

Oman Rail also is particularly targeting vendors in the following industries: engineering services; contracting (Civil & MEP); building materials; railways track materials; railway equipment, and professional services.

Looking ahead, Al-Hatmi also pointed out that the 10-year Oman Rail project will create local social and economic benefits that far outreach its construction. For instance, industries primed for creation include those in the areas of design, construction, operation, and maintenance of not just the railway, but also for emerging towns and cities that will be built along the railway’s path.

“This is not just a railroad … it’s a paradigm shift,” said Lesniewski.

In addition to detailing the multitude of available business opportunities, Abdulrahman and his team shared plans for the railway and provided an update on the status of the project.

The project is being built in four phases with awards for phase one contracts expected to be announced in June or July, according to Lesniewski. Phase one construction then is slated to begin in the fourth quarter of 2015 or during the first quarter of 2016, he added, with completion of phase one set for 2018. Following that completion, phases two and three will be built in succession, he said.

Phases two and three will be issued for tender in September or October and offered for nine months, Lesniewski said.

Eventually, the Oman Rail will stretch 2244km (roughly 1,394 miles) and will help elevate the Sultanate’s role as a key freight and passenger hub connecting major regions outside the congested, expensive, and risky Strait of Hormuz, Lesniewski said.

“The world is changing,” Darby added. “We see this project as a new, significant part of the world’s supply chain.”

For more information on Oman Rail, go to: http://www.omanrail.om/.