“Oman sees the sector from the perspective of the end users - freight forwarders, investors, customs brokers, traders and all logistics service providers,” says Al Khattab Al Maani, executive director of Oman Logistics Center (OLC). “It is our mission to facilitate their operations by enhancing services across the board and though this transform the Sultanate in line with our SOLS 2040 strategy.”New customer service enhancements already in place include a risk-based and intelligence-led pre-clearance system across the Sultanate, with 22% of shipments now approved before arrival at Oman’s points of entry. In addition, the overall rate of goods inspection has improved to an industry leading 2.5% compared to an average 3% across the EU.
Customers from diverse industries are quickly noting the benefits the Sultanate has to offer.“The pre-clearance of goods speeds up the arrival of imported raw materials, supports improvements at our manufacturing facilities and ensures that we can supply our customers faster,” says Dr Salim Said Al Wahibi, CEO at Oliban, an Omani frankincense products company.
“Pre-clearance helps us a lot, especially with urgent shipments,” agrees Nasser Al Oufi, Supply Chain Senior Officer at electrical products manufacturer Oman Cables. “Thanks to the new pre-clearance system, we receive containers within one hour of their unloading from the vessel.”Authorised economic operators
As part of the pre-clearance system, businesses are encouraged to register as authorised economic operators – allowing the Sultanate’s customs authorities to provide them with advance rulings on imports and exports – saving time at the border.
“Advance rulings benefit traders importing goods by identifying any customs requirements and facilitating their completion before the shipment even leaves its point of origin,” says Yousef Al Alawi, assistant director of Customs Affairs and Bahwan logistics – a newly registered authorised economic operator. “There is no doubt that there is a return in terms of time and effort when you compare it with the previous system.”
A similar step-change has been noted by Sea Safe Trade, an Omani logistics business which has also recently registered. “The new system saves effort, time and money,” says executive director Khalid Al Fizari. “Clearance is now done in the shortest possible time and both we and our customers have seen a big improvement in the speed of service - allowing us to get goods to their destination faster than ever before.”
Another efficiency initiative is the Bayan digital platform, which integrates government services into a single electronic window and allows traders to submit electronic documentation to Customs officials. The system has reduced the Sultanate’s import clearance times to an average of seven hours against the GCC’s usual 47 hours and the time taken to complete export documentation procedures through the same platform has also been reduced to only seven hours – a further time saving in comparison to the GCC average of 22 hours.
Bayan is a “quantum leap from the previous system,” says Mansoor Al Rawahi, CEO of Oman’s Thunder Logistics, which specialises in international import and export services through Oman’s ports. “In the past, the amount of documentation required often delayed the delivery of goods. Now Bayan facilitates the whole process for us.”
As an integrated platform across all Oman’s ports of entry, Bayan also supports business such as Kurtu Trading, which specialises in importing and exporting perishable good through Muscat’s new airport. “Before we used to wait for the cargo to arrive and for the documents to arrive and then we could start with the customs process,” reflects general manager Abdalla Ezadin. “Now, through Bayan, we can submit all information before cargo arrives in Oman – saving both us and our customers a lot of time.”Despite these achievements, there’s still work to be done.
“The most important thing is to keep improving,” believes OLC’s Al Maani. “Our job is to help transform Oman into the central gateway to Africa, the Indian Subcontinent and the Middle East. The only way we are going to achieve this is to constantly engage with customers and stakeholders across to sector to ensure we’re putting in place the services they need.”