(MENAFN - Gulf Times) A ceremony was held recently to lay the foundation stone for a Karwa Motors bus manufacturing project in Duqm Special Economic Zone (SEZ), Oman.
Karwa Motors is a joint venture partnership between Mowasalat Qatar the national transport company of Qatar, with a 70% equity stake, and Oman Investment Fund (OIF) — a sovereign wealth fund of the Sultanate of Oman, with the remaining 30% stake.
Together, the partners will invest around $90mn in the initial phase of the project, a venture that has the potential to underpin the growth of a bus hub at Duqm over the long term, Mowasalat has said in a press statement.
The plant is initially planned for a production capacity of 1,000 buses a year, which can increase up to 3,000 buses per annum in a phased expansion based on market demand, the statement notes.
The plant is designed to produce coach buses, dity buses and school buses tailored for the local and regional markets.
The project is expected to create around 200 jobs in Phase 1, which may double after the expansion with the addition of roles in R & D, design, parts manufacturing and global marketing.
The foundation stone-laying ceremony marks a key milestone in the development of a landmark initiative to build the nation's first-ever bus manufacturing and assembly plant based on a strategic investment by the governments of Qatar and Oman.
The foundation stone was laid under the patronage of Yahya bin Saeed al-Jabri, chairman of the Special Economic Zone Authority at Duqm (SEZAD), and in the presence of undersecretaries, ambassadors and the representatives of the partners in the project.
Also gracing the event with their presence were Khalid al-Hail, chairman of Karwa Motors; Nasser bin Mohamed al-Malki, chairman of Mowasalat Qatar; and Khalid al-Yahmadi, chief executive officer of OIF who is also the vice-chairman of Karwa Motors, along with dignitaries, senior officials from SEZAD and other guests.
Al-Hail said: 'Karwa Motors will leverage Oman's existing automotive supply chain network to gain a foothold in the Oman and Qatar markets, which is tipped to become the region's largest by 2022.
'This plant will enable Karwa Motors to sell buses in the largest market of the Mena region while providing greater flexibility for Oman and Qatar. Worldwide demand for buses is growing and this is the first step towards becoming a leading regional bus manufacturer.
The first stage of the project will be on a 220,000sq m site located not far from a world-scale multipurpose port currently being developed at Duqm.
Al-Hail said: 'Proximity and ease of access to the Port of Duqm ensures reduced shipping times and less effort and time on road transportation for raw materials as well as quick despatch of finished buses to customers. This also assists in speedy release of goods from the port, reducing storage time.
The facility will be initially equipped for welding, painting and assembly of buses and coaches.
Over time, the project is expected to pull in investments in auto parts, components, engineering services, electronics, workshops and so on, thereby creating an automotive-based manufacturing cluster in Duqm.
Chinese bus manufacturer Higer Co Ltd has been named the technology partner and CKD kit supplier for the project.
'Karwa Motors is expected to contribute immensely to knowledge transfer, skills development and socio-economic growth within Duqm and beyond. Besides creating high-value technical and administrative jobs for Omanis, the project has the potential to catalyse the growth of a flourishing automotive components sector, nurture technical talent pools, and also position Oman as a destination for sophisticated industrial manufacturing, the statement added.
'A key spin-off is its potential to support the development of an advanced design, engineering and processing knowledge base in Oman, fuel innovation in processes and product design, and drive the growth of export-led private investments in this industry.