The fishing and farming sector remains one of the Sultanate of Oman’s major employers. The south-western Dhofar region, where the major port city of Salalah is located, is Oman’s second most-productive agricultural zone after the Al Batinah coastal plain, found in the north-western corner between Muscat and the UAE.
The south-west benefits from the seasonal khareef (monsoon), typically from July through to September, which gives it a more tropical climate than other parts of Oman and the GCC.
The fisheries segment is poised for substantial growth, as large-scale investments are allocated towards harbour and port infrastructure. As part of the eighth five-year plan (2011-15), $259.7mn (OR100mn) has been set aside for fisheries development, and the government has approved investment of $1.3bn into fisheries between 2013 and 2020. Earlier this year, Hamed Said Al Oufi, the undersecretary for fisheries at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MoAF), said that by 2020 Oman would have a total of 2,022 fishing ports.
One such project under way is a fishery harbour in Taqah, some 35km east of Salalah. In the first instance, the facility will serve local fishermen and yachtsmen, but the plan is to transfrom it into a localised marine and tourist centre. The site will eventually include facilities to complement the fishery harbour and marina, such as a maintenance yard, fish market, ice factory, administrative buildings and retail and leisure offerings.
Taking care of first phase construction is Turkey’s STFA, which signed a $34.5mn (OR13.3mn) contract with the MoAF to do the work over 19 months. Project manager Ediz Dündar said the scope covers the construction of two rubble-mound breakwaters and a quay wall, installation of berthing, mooring and navigational aids, and the building of an internal service road and approach road to connect the harbour to the Salalah-Mirbat road.
Dündar said he hopes STFA’s debut project in Salalah and first time working with the MoAF will act as a springboard for future partnerships. In fact, this would already appear to be the case, with the firm about to mobilise for a similar MoAF fishery harbour in Mussanah and also bidding for another such project in Duqm.
“We want to make a very good impression with this project,” said Dündar. “Our company is a marine and road specialist so we want to be involved in as many projects as possible but first of all we have to finish this job.”
The project started in July 2013, however mobilisation was extended by two months while some design changes were worked through by the client and consultants. This included, for one, a reduction in the number of different sizes of concrete armour units (core-locs) that were to be used for the breakwaters from five to three. Dündar said that in spite of the delay STFA decided to press ahead with some set up works.
“We started setting up the precast yard facilities and the office buildings and workshops,” he said. “We did that in order to keep the team motivated and to get ahead with our mobilisation works while the design changes were being made.
“In that time, we prepared all the necessary documents such as the HSE documents and quality documents, some procedures and method statements subject to the approval of the new design.”
After the mobilisation period STFA set about constructing the longer of the two breakwaters – the 1,123m west breakwater – in December 2013. A 100m-long trench was dug towards the shoreline and filled with core material. This was protected will backfill material before the concrete armour units and primary and secondary armour rocks were placed to absorb the force of the ocean waves.
Meanwhile, work on the 660m east breakwater was started in April under the same process. The elevation of the entire breakwater structure has been raised to 8.5m above sea level and both sections are on schedule to be finished by the end of August.
Dündar said it was critical that the bulk of breakwater work was completed before the start of khareef, when sea conditions typically become rough. “We had no choice but to complete the majority of the breakwater work before the monsoon season started,” he said. “For example, we had divers laying the geotextile lining in order to stablise the seabed material. You simply cannot do that now with the current swells. It’s just not safe.”
Construction of the breakwaters has reached the pier heads and what remains is to cover the crests with concrete armour units. At present the on-site precast yard has produced about 84% of the 15,764 concrete armour units that are to be used across both sections. As work progresses, navigational aids will be fitted on top of masts at the pier heads.
Dündar said the project has been at peak levels since breakwater construction and would remain so during the two-and-a-half month dredging period which started last week. An extra 30 specialist personnel have been brought in to carry out the work, pushing the total workforce to just over 300. The basin will be dredged to a depth of -5m, with the removal of existing sea bed materials equating to 300,000m³.
“The dredging work is absolutely on the critical path,” said Dündar. “All other remaining work is subject to the completion of this. Obviously we couldn’t start the dredging works until we had secured the basin with the breakwaters.” Two dredgers are working simultaneously to maintain the project schedule and to ensure work is not disrupted if one of them happens to break down.
“We have to do this because logistically we would have to send for equipment from Muscat, which is obviously too far away,” said Dündar. “So the subcontractor has also set up a workshop here for any running repairs that might be needed to the dredgers.”
The dredge material and quarry-fill material will be used to construct the east reclamation area before work is started to build the two concrete pontoons, gangways, boat ramp and 150m quay wall that will link to it. Quay wall work will start at the end of this month and complete in September. It will be built from 1,635 pre-cast blocks, said Dundar, while the boat ramp will be constructed with quarried stones and pre-cast, and the two pontoons from concrete with retention structures made with tubular piles.
Meanwhile, the quay wall apron and landing platform behind the pontoons will be built with interlocking pavements and the platform behind the boat ramp with concrete pavements. In later phases, the east reclamation area will house an administration office, ice factory, fish market and maintenance yard.
As for the west reclamation area, this was constructed in parallel with the west breakwater using backfill material and is currently 3.7m above sea level.
Dündar said the height would eventually be raised by another 30cm in September. Meanwhile, the parts for its pontoon and three finger piers are being made in the UK. They will be installed by a subcontractor in December and finished in January next year.
The tender to complete the road and pavement work for the 1.3km internal road that links the two breakwaters and an approach road connecting the Salalah-Mirbat Road to the site is expected to be awarded shortly. Work is scheduled to start in October and will see the 650m approach road widened to 21m. STFA will then secure the site with a 900m fence before handing over to the MoAF by the middle of February, 2015.
Words by Yamurai Zandera