Port Sultan Qaboos
Review and History

Port Sultan Qaboos is located in Muscat on Oman’s northeastern coast on the Gulf of Oman off the Arabian Sea. Until 1970, the country was named Muscat and Oman, revealing Muscat’s importance to the country. Capital of Oman and home of Port Sultan Qaboos, rests on the shores of a cove surrounded by the Western Al Hajar Mountains formed by volcanoes. Port Sultan Qaboos and the cornice sit at the northeastern part of Muscat. In 2008, the population of Muscat urban area was about one million.

Like Oman in general, Muscat and Port Sultan Qaboos economy is based on trade. Traditional exports include mother of pearl, fish, and dates. Many of the markets in Muscat and Port Sultan Qaboos sell these as well as traditional artifacts from the country. Since 1962, Petroleum Development Oman has been a central fixture in the economy, as the national’s second biggest employer, producing about 720 thousand barrels of oil per day. Muscat’s major trading companies, Suhail Bahwan, Saud Bahwan Group, and Zubair Automotive are partners with some of the world’s biggest corporations.

Port Sultan Qaboos is Muscat’s main trading port and a hub between Arabia and India and the Far East, moving about 1.6 million tons of cargo per year. Since the Jebel Ali Free Zone opened in nearby Dubai, UAE, Port Sultan Qaboos has lost some of its influence. The Omani government owns and operates much of Port Sultan Qaboos’s infrastructure and facilities.

Port History

Archaeological evidence suggests that the area around Muscat has been inhabited since 6000 BC. Fishermen’s burial sites have been found in modern Muscat’s Ras al-Hamra, and Harappan pottery suggests contact with the ancient Indus Valley Civilization.

The City of Muscat has been an important trading port since the 1st Century when Greek geographers Ptolemy called it Cryptus Portus (the Hidden Port), and Pliney the Elder called it Amithoscuta.

Muscat has been ruled by many different indigenous tribes and foreign powers. In the 3rd Century AD, to Persia’s last pre-Islamic dynasty, the Sassanids. Under the 7th Century rule of Shapur I, Sassanid king of the Second Persian Empire, the area was converted to Islam. Muscat’s importance as a port continued to grow.

For many hundreds of years, Oman’s ports have been a center of trade for ships from across the world. Located between the great civilizations of Babylonia, Egypt, Africa, and India, the country’s history is closely related to that of its ports.

In the 9th Century, the first consolidation of Omani tribes under the banner of an Ibadi state came when the First Imamate was established. However, tribal rivalries invited conquest by the third Islamic Caliphate, the Abbasids, from Baghdad who held the area for 200 years.

In the 10th Century, Omani ports became prominent when the country’s merchant fleets sailed to Madagascar and East Africa looking for exotic goods like leopard skins, ivory, and tortoise shell which they traded with far-away places like China for porcelain, spices, and silks.

In the 11th Century, a local tribe drove the Abbasids out of the Oman region, and power shifted between tribes. Under the Azdi Nabahinah clan, coastal ports like Muscat prospered from trade with the Indian subcontinent. At the same time, their relations with inland peoples of Oman deteriorated.

In 1507, Porguguese Afonso de Albuquerque attacked Muscat and its port. After the town fell, Albuquerque massacred most of the people who remained there and pillaged the town. The Portuguese held Muscat for a century in spite of onslaughts from Persia and the Turks.

In 1624 when Nasir bin Murshid al-Yaribi was elected Imam of Oman, power began to shift from Persians and Portuguese back to Omanis. In 1648, the Imam sent an army that seriously weakened the Portuguese hold on Muscat. In 1650, a small group of the Imam’s soldiers forced Portuguese surrender. During the uncertain years after that, the Al Bu Sa’id dynasty emerged, and they still rule today.

By the 18th Century, Oman and Muscat had become a regional military power. Oman and Muscat port’s influence stretched to East Africa and Zanzibar. Being an important trading center, Muscat attracted foreign merchants and traders that contributed to today’s multi-ethnic society.

However, long-standing strain between Oman’s ports and its interior reappeared. Interior tribes attacked Muscat and Muttrah in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. While the British negotiated a tentative ceasefire that gave more independence to the interior, internal conflicts continued.

In 1962, those conflicts boiled over into the Dhofar Rebellion that forced Sultan Said bin Taimur to ask for British help. An unsuccessful attempt to assassinate the Sultan led to his increasing isolation. In 1970, the British helped Qaboos bin Said, his son, take the palace and rule of the country in a bloodless coup d’etat. He ended the Dhofar rebellion, consolidated tribal territories, and named the country the Sultanate of Oman.

In the 18th Century when Sayyid Sultan Bin Ahmed reigned, trade increased. The two harbors in the capital area, Muscat and Muttrah, took on specialized roles. Muttrah (today’s location of Port Sultan Qaboos) became the commercial port, and Muscat was the base for naval activities.

Sayyid Sultan Bin Ahmed’s son, Syyid Said, continued to increase ocean-going commerce, although began to decline after he died in 1856. From that time, maritime activity was largely limited to essential goods from India carried on old-fashioned wooden dhows. Trade vessels were forced to anchor offshore, and they had to wait days before being unloaded into small boats.

His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said started a new era of maritime trade and prosperity in Oman when he established Port Sultan Qaboos in 1974. From 1976, Port Sultan Qaboos was managed and operated by Port Services Corporation S.A.O.G. Cargo was conventional in nature until 1981. When containerization arrived on the maritime scene, Port Sultan Qaboos converted two of its berths for container vessels that were operating by 1984. In that year, Port Sultan Qaboos began to computerize its operations.

Since Qaboos bin Said came to power, the ruler’s isolation has ended. Prominent and capable Omanis have filled top government positions. New ministries have been established to manage social services like healthcare and education. Port Sultan Qaboos was developed, and a new international airport was opened in Muscat’s Seeb district. The old village of Ruwi in the Muttrah district was transformed into a commercial center. During the 1980s and 1990s, Muscat quickly-modernizing city attracted many regional migrants.

In the 1990s, Port Sultan Qaboos infrastructure was expanded. Two additional berths were converted for multi-purpose and container vessels, and new heavy-duty quayside and yard cranes were added to the port’s arsenal of equipment.

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