MUSCAT: Oman Air has signed an agreement with leading cargo airline, Cargolux Airlines International, which officials say will allow the sultanate to act as a transit point for goods between India and Europe.

The pact was signed at Muscat International Airport by H E Darwish bin Ismail bin Ali al Balushi, Minister Responsible for Financial Affairs, and Dirk Reich, CEO, Cargolux Airlines International, on Thursday.

Based in Luxembourg, Cargolux will now use Muscat as its third hub in addition to China.

One cargo flight a week will operate from Luxembourg to Muscat to Chennai and back. According to Reich, 450,000 tonnes of cargo per year is transported between India and Europe.

He said there are plans to increase the flights to thrice a week and add Bengaluru, Mumbai and Hyderabad as destinations. The ultimate goal would see Muscat as a hub for flights to as far as China and Africa.

Muscat currently transports 120,000-150,000 tonnes of goods a year, but with the new airport, its potential will rise to 250,000-350,000 tonnes, said Reich.

“Together, we can achieve the vision of the Sultanate of Oman to really become a logistics hub,” he said.

The initial agreement is for six months, after which it can be extended, according to Adulrahaman al Busaidy, COO, Oman Air.

As part of the joint venture, Cargolux aircraft will be used on the Oman Air network. Oman Air and Cargolux will each split half the volume on the 747 aircraft, which is capable of carrying 240 tonnes.

Busaidy said this will allow Oman Air to sign deals with freight forwarders to transport their goods.

“There is a lot of cargo from India to Oman, and mainly to Europe and we couldn’t take advantage of it,” he said.

“By operating this freighter, it will open up the India-Europe route.”

Oman Air cargo manager Mohamed Sherief said Cargolux aircraft are designed for large items measuring 2-3m, such as machinery and even livestock.

Officials said the agreement represents a contribution by air infrastructure to help Oman realise its potential as a logistics hub.

“Today, we have taken the first step on our journey to contribute to the great infrastructure in the Sultanate of Oman,” Paul Gregorowitsch, Oman Air CEO said.

SOURCE: Muscat Daily