Supply ship RFA Fort Victoria tried out the facilities at the newest port in the Middle East – built where Omani mountains once stood.
Duqm, half way between the capital Muscat and the southern port of Salalah, has been turned from a fishing village into an international harbour and tourism destination over the past decade.
THIS looks like a rather barren and drab Middle East port.
But the people of Oman moved mountains to get RFA Fort Victoria to use it. Literally.
For where 3/O Steve Andrews got his camera out on the jetty and took this snap, the rocky Arabian coastline once stood.
This is Duqm, a man-made port carved out of rock and mountain on the Omani coast roughly half way between Muscat and Salalah, tested by the support ship to see whether it’s a possible alternative to Oman’s other two main ports for resupplying the 32,000-tonne vessel with food, fuel and stores – so Fort Victoria can do the same for British and Allied warships on patrol in the region.
Twenty years ago, Duqm was a fishing village. By 2020 the goal is to turn it into a city of 100,000 inhabitants with an international port, upmarket hotels, a motorway and airport to become one of the most important business and tourism hubs in the region.
A huge new dry dock – the second largest in the Middle East – has been built with breakwaters which stretch for four kilometres, while coastal peaks have been flattened – as one of Duqm’s port officials explained to Fort Victoria’s officers while showing off the state-of-the-art new facilities.
“We’re here to assess the potential of Duqm for being resupplied,” explained RFA Fort Victoria’s Operations Officer, First Officer Susan Cloggie-Holden.
“It’s taken months of planning: today we’ve brought the key players and logistics experts together to walk through the possibilities on the ground.”
HMS Echo became the first Royal Navy vessel to use Duqm in the spring of last year while her sister Enterprise surveyed the approaches to the new port in 2010 making sure they were navigable.
RFA Fort Victoria is the largest UK naval vessel to visit the new port so far. Her pioneering visit explored options for the safe and secure transfer of stores between adjacent ships.
“The development of the port at Duqm opens up new options for us, and today has been about getting the necessary groundwork in place for future visits,” said Captain Kevin Rimell, Fort Victoria’s Commanding Officer.
“Our primary role is providing replenishment-at-sea to warships, but we also need to replenish ourselves – this place has great potential for that.”