Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Oman Ferries loosing money like crazy - take one of the most subsidised trips in the world today!

Word is the vaunted car/passenger ferries Oman purchased earlier this year - the car ferry without any jetties to load cars - are loosing money fast.

I heard that the average number of passengers on the Muscat - Kasab ferry run at the moment is 5 people. 5. Unfortunately, the ferry burns fuel like there's no tomorrow - 30,000 litres of diesel per trip. Plus the ferries were designed down in terms of weight to save money, and are therefore apparently more suitable for short, 1-2 hr type trips rather than the long 6hr+ run being used here. This means the maintainence programme is greater than anticipated, plus they are pretty high tech, so the work has to be done by expensive mechanics from Australia. So not only is the money being poured down its throat, the bills to keep it running are huge too.

Now, don't get me wrong. There's no doubt these are beautiful, world class, state of the art boats. The second ferry Hormuz just successfully broke the world speed record of its sister Shinas in July. However, as anyone who owns a boat knows, big engines and high speeds on water take 1 thing: lots and lots of hydrocarbons.

The organisational and business capability to ensure the boats are used efficiently and economically here in Oman has been a total unmitigated cock-up. Despite ordering the ferries 3 years ago, no jetties were built, nor Omani crew pre-trained. The demand for the service is obviously not great (especially as they can't put cars on them), plus there has been precious little marketing of the service either. The pricing structure is also a disaster - too expensive to come close to filling the boat or compete with going by air, but not enough to actually pay even the running costs, let alone getting capital and interest payments back. As a result, the things are just burning through the cash at a rate of knots, if you'll excuse the pun. I don't know who is responsible for the project, but he's damn lucky he's not working for me or investing my money.

I'd recommend taking a 3 day trip to Kasab as soon as possible, while you can. It'll be like having your own private multi-million dollar boat cruise. (although pack a nice lunch - food is apparently pretty spartan, and there isn't a bar either, so think about taking some magic masafi). The boats are beautiful, the trip is great, and the Ministry of National economy is paying most of your bill, so go for it!

Austal Ferry - Hormuz
Second Oman Ferry Betters Sister's Speed Record

The second of Austal’s two 65 metre vehicle-passenger ferries built for the Sultanate of Oman has become the first diesel-powered vehicle ferry to reach a speed of 56 knots. “Hormuz” recorded a maximum speed of 56 knots (103.7km/h) and a service speed of 52 knots during sea trials held near Henderson in Western Australia yesterday.

The feat makes it the fastest diesel-powered vehicle passenger ferry in the world – a title previously held by its sister vessel “Shinas”, which recorded a maximum speed of 55.9 knots last year.

The vessel is scheduled for delivery to Oman next month, where it will join “Shinas” in providing a new tourism service to Oman’s spectacular Musandam Peninsular as flagships of the Sultanate’s expanded marine transport network.

The unrivalled performance of the two 65 metre vehicle-passenger catamaran ferries showcases the world-class ability of the Austal design team, who successfully developed a new, customised, high efficiency hull design capable of delivering record-breaking performance, while Austal’s construction team managed to meet demanding weight targets.


  1. You are 100% correct...Ferries have come , but still the port is not developed...

    i have stumbled upon your blog when i searched the bacteria acenitobactor.

    Good work..will leave my comments especially about MSM...

  2. There must have been a considerable number of surveys among Oman’s Tourists to forecast demand for the Ferries. If so, I suspect that they will be the success they deserve.

  3. Anon,
    Thanks. Keep coming back, but chose a nickname - it is still anonymous.

    Yeah, right... I suspect it has been done on an optimistic forecast, based on the famous Las Vegas principal of 'if we build it, they will come'. And perhaps they will, eventually. But meanwhile you can spend a whole lotta cash getting there.

  4. Oman Virtually, Are the folk that supposedly undertook the surveys by chance the same folk that undertook the surveys for the Blue City?

    One of the recurring themes in Oman is that often due to a need / pressure to succeed folk only listen to those that tell them what they actually want to hear. Anything other than this is often seen as tantamount to sacrilegious betrayal to the cause - what ever that is.


  5. There's a special Ramadhan offer now for a short two hour trip around the coast of Muscat starting at 9 - 11 pm. 15 rails for adults 10 for children. If that doesnt scream desperate . .. . .

  6. Where can one book / buy tickets for the voyage to Khasab?

    In Khasab, can you recommend / describe good hotels?

    Where would one board the ferry in the Muscat area?

  7. UD, your advice to the first anon, who has since adopted the nickname jupiter, makes sense. I regularly visit your blog for updates on various issues - I find yours one of the best blogs from Oman - and have also posted comments as anon. May be time for me also to choose a nickname.

    Keep blogging...continue the good work.

  8. Interesting report, esp. on the avg. number of passengers, 5, and on the fuel inefficiency and the ideal 1-2 hr. route for that amount of engine power. Have noticed this elsewhere with these types of fast ferries and HSV's. Your's should definitely have bars and refreshments onboard for sale, at least for however long they remain in business.

    Aloha, Brad

  9. I hear even more of these flying bullets are on order. Maybe the alternative routs of Masirah and the Hallaniyats will prove more prosperous.


  10. Saw something in one of the local rags within the the past 10 days or so -- The Week, I think -- saying that Oman Air is doing the catering for the ferries. On longer international routes, Oman Air does a half-way reasonable job with food, so that may be a sensible idea; however, it doesn't sound like that's started yet.

  11. I have read your a little about what you say but you people don't make the difference between politics and economies, if those guys from UAE try the task of travelling to Oman quite difficult so the government say go hell we have our own resources that's the spirit they wants you to have,so don't make critics just for the critics

  12. Sorry for jumping in, but is there anybody who got an answer or me? Have you ever heard from a ferry from <oman mainland to Mashira a small island off the coast? And may be some more infos about it? Gert, Germany


If you wish to post anonymously, please pick a nickname by selecting the Name/URL option, or at least sign off your comment with one! I will delete comments I find objectionable or needlessly inflammatory. Sorry for the word verification.... OMG the spam has gotten BAD these past 12 months... trying to avoid making one log in...