Operations at the Port of Salalah have been severely impacted after Cyclone Mekunu made landfall in Oman on May 26 as a Category 3 hurricane equivalent storm, causing more than a dozen casualties and widespread flooding in the Gulf nation’s third largest city. The cyclone brought more than two years’ worth of rain in a single day in what has become an important transshipment port in the Gulf of Aden. Authorities preemptively closed down the port on May 27 and it may take more than 72 hours to restart operations, as IT and communication systems have yet to be re-established due to ongoing power outages.
With hundreds of gate and transshipment containers damaged by flood, port authorities have invoked the force majeure clause to avoid liability for any legal claims for cargo loss or damage. Against this background, container shipping line Maersk announced on May 28 that it has already or would divert at least 16 vessels from the port until May 29 before reassessing the situation later this week. Cargo will be discharged at different locations for onward connections, including in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and Colombo, Sri Lanka. Nearby alternatives to discharge cargo include the Port of Sohar in Oman, which has deep-water jetties capable of handling the largest container vessels.
Due to the scarcity of information and the likelihood of extensive damages, customers are advised to expect significant delays on shipments bound for or transshipped in Oman. Consider liaising with local contacts to assess whether containers have sustained physical damages and can be recovered.
Since June 2017, the Port of Salalah has become a key transshipment port in the Gulf of Aden amid a diplomatic crisis between Qatar and the Arab countries. Large container lines including Maersk Line, Hapag-Lloyd, CMA CGM and Shipping Corporation of India now call at the port, either as single or joint services.