Muscat: Oman on Saturday unveiled the world's fastest diesel-powered passenger ferry that would link capital Muscat with Khasab in Musandam Peninsula from Wednesday.
"The high-speed ferries have been introduced on this route basically to promote remote areas, providing services and easing movement of equipment without going through borders," Mehdi Al Abduwani, Chairman of the National Ferry Company (NFC), told media on board 65-metre-long catamaran - Shinas - on Saturday during its soft launch.
He also revealed that NFC would overall run five such ferries.
"There would be two ferries in the north (linking Khasab with Muscat), two in the South (linking Halniyat Island with Salalah) and the third ferry would link Masirah Island with Shannah in the east.
Khimji Ramdas Shipping Division have been given the rights to market the services.
Al Abduwani stressed that the ferry service would be made available to all categories of passengers, including Omani citizens, expatriate residents as well as tourists.
He said the ferries to Khasab would be operated from Shinas, which is located 250 km north of Muscat, from mid-2009.
"The jetty at Shinas is not yet ready but once it is ready to take the ferries, it would be operated daily between Shinas and Khasab," Al Abduwani informed.
"It would be then discontinued from Muscat," he added.
"For the time being the ferries - Shinas and Hormuz - would be operated between Port Qaboos in Muscat and Khasab Port," he added.
The Australian-make catamaran, Shinas, launched yesterday would be joined by another vessel Hormuz.
"Hormuz is slightly faster than Shinas and is expected to come here in the first week of September," he revealed.
According to him Shinas has clocked a top cruise speed of 51 knots (100km/h) while Hormuz clocked world-record 56 knots during a practice run in Australia recently.
"The ferry service, he pointed out, would encourage tourist travel to remote picturesque areas of the Musandam peninsula," he said. Passengers on board these ferries will be able to travel in comfort across two classes - Tourist Class and First Class. "There's a small VIP class with eight seats only," he added.
High quality seating and catering facilities on board these ferries are all located on a single deck while a helicopter landing pad on the bridge deck can accommodate a medium-class helicopter. The vessels are built at an estimated cost of $70 million by Australia-based Austal, who are the world's largest builder of fast ferries.
Features: No UAE visa needed
- The Musandam region, due to its geographical position and mountainous terrain, is isolated from the rest of Oman and separated by the UAE. Thus, every resident has to travel through the UAE to come to Muscat or any other part of the Sultanate by road.
- Each time an expatriate, travelling from Khasab to any other part of Oman, has to procure a UAE visa to cross from their territories and this has proved to be very cumbersome. The ferry eliminates this need.
- The road travel from Muscat to Khasab is over seven hours, including time spent at the border check points.
- The ferry between Muscat and Khasab would take around six hours.
- The ferry, which is the fastest diesel-operated vessel in the world, will operate twice a week between Muscat and Khasab.
- Each ferry can accommodate 208 passengers and 56 cars.