Archive for category Oman
Sep 05, 2017
Life on Mars may still be light years away – but it clearly hasn’t stopped us from thinking ahead. Next year six space-suited and booted astronauts will head to the Dhofar desert in Oman in an attempt to simulate what life will be like on Mars.
According to scientists, the Dhofar desert is possibly the most realistic place on Earth that is as harsh and uninviting as the landscape of Mars.
The astronauts will take part in a lavish dress rehearsal for the first manned voyage to another planet as they attempt to retrace the footsteps of Marco Polo and the English explorer Wilfred Thesiger.
It is not the first time such an elaborate adventure has been staged in readiness for the real mission in later years. Teams have simulated identical missions in an open cast mine in southern Spain, the Sahara desert in Africa, as well as a glacier in the Alps.
“Every time we try to get bigger and better and closer to the real thing. We need to understand the capabilities and limitations of our equipment and what people need to do when they get there. This is the biggest mission we have ever done,” Gernot Gromer, president of the Austrian Space Forum, revealed.
When they head to Arabia next February the space crew will go armed with a drone, an inflatable hydroponic greenhouse, several robotic rovers as well as a host of other scientific equipment.
Although they will spend their time in complete isolation, their three week journey will be closely monitored by mission control, on this occasion, based in Austria. In order to make the event all the more realistic, any signal contact between them will be delayed by 10 minutes, just as there would be in real life.
“What we know about Mars has progressed massively in the past 15 years, and I strongly believe that the first human to walk on Mars is already born. We could see permanent human settlement on the Red Planet several generations from now, and they may not be happy eating canned food,” said Mr. Gromer.
A 50-strong army of support personnel – including Squadron Leader Bonnie Posselt, an RAF doctor who became Britain’s first trainee space medic last year – will be on hand throughout the mission. Some 60 researchers will also follow their every footsteps as they probe the 120 square mile test site looking for ‘alien’ DNA or, anything else they can find in the barren desert wastes.
In addition to the obvious inhospitable conditions beyond Earth, he explained, there are a number of less well known challenges to humans.
“The way our body processes food is different enough to matter a great deal. A person’s sense of taste changes in zero gravity. There are medical implications to different gravity effects. In our work we’re verifying whether the ideas and designs to survive on Mars work in practice, and the gaps between theory and practice that we observe range from trivial to serious matters.”
The astronauts are guaranteed to be put to the test during their mission, most notably temperatures will vary from 16 degrees and 27 Celsius, a far cry from anything Mars has to offer.
In many respects, however, the landscape in Oman will be similar to those expected on the red planet, thanks to its salt domes, sedimentary rocks and dried up riverbeds.
Source: Mars Daily.
August 9, 2017
Dubai’s status as a financial hub for the region is increasingly coming under threat as one of Qatar’s major shipping and logistics firm relocates its regional trans-shipment hub from Dubai to Oman’s Sohar port.
With the Saudi led blockade of Qatar now entering its third month, Milaha Maritime and Logistics, which “delivers a comprehensive range of services to some of the region’s biggest players in the oil, gas and petrochemical sectors”, announced the move that may raise concerns in Dubai over its potential to remain the unrivaled economic hub of the region.
One of the measures taken by the blockading countries was to deny Qatar access to their ports. Typically, cargo for Qatar stopped at the UAE’s massive port in Jebel Ali, Dubai, or in Abu Dhabi, then got put on smaller boats heading to Doha. Following the blockade, international free trade zones like Jebel Ali were off-limits to Qatari companies. Hundreds of containers destined for Qatar were seized by the authorities in clear breach of the provisions and laws of the International Trade Organisation that safeguard the free flow of goods.
Oman was quick to announce its readiness to become the import/export hub of the region. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member was one of the countries that stood to benefit from the Saudi-led blockade after deciding to remain neutral and allowing Qatar-bound ships to use its ports. The country also launched one of its boldest projects; Bayan is the largest electronic system in the Sultanate that allows international traders to obtain government permits and licences quickly and efficiently.
An increasing number of companies have now turned to Oman, and that is likely to have a severe knock-on effect on Dubai. Analysts have warned that the economic embargo on Qatar could hurt Dubai’s status as a financial hub.
Industry analysts believe that both Kuwait and Oman will reap the benefit of trade transactions that used to take place in countries like the UAE. Qatar Petroleum chief Saad Al-Kaabi told Al Jazeera that, as the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) producing up to 77 million tonnes each year, it had to move quickly to mitigate the impact of the blockade and secure alternative routes. While stressing that the blockade has made Qatar much stronger, Doha was in any case unlikely to return to using ports within the blockading countries that previously serviced its global exports.
On Monday, Qatar’s transport ministry said three new direct shipping lines are being opened with Malaysia, Pakistan and Taiwan. These countries, along with Oman and Kuwait, are expected to benefit financially from doing trade with the countries affected by the boycott.
Source: Middle East Monitor.
25 December 2016 Sunday
Voters in Oman headed to the polls Sunday to choose municipal councilors in only the second local election held in the Gulf sultanate.
In 1994 it became the first Gulf monarchy to give the vote to women and in 2011 Qaboos decreed that elections be held for municipal councils.
More than 620,000 voters were registered to take part in Sunday’s polls, which will choose councilors for 11 municipalities including the capital Muscat.
The councilors will have limited powers, as authorities will designate chairmen and deputy chairmen for the municipalities from outside those elected.
“I voted for the person who will best represent me,” Jawhara al-Zadjali said as she left a polling station in Muscat.
Voters across the country are choosing 202 councilors from among 731 candidates, including 23 women, for the four-year posts.
At the national level, Oman has a consultative council with limited powers, the 85-member Majlis al-Shura.
In 2011 Qaboos slightly expanded the powers of the Majlis al-Shura after unprecedented social unrest when the normally quiet nation became caught up in protests which swept the Arab world.
Source: World Bulletin.
December 17, 2016
Iran’s foreign ministry has announced that it had made decisions on its new ambassadors to be appointed to both Syria and Oman, and that their names would soon be released, The New Khaleej reported yesterday.
Foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said that the names of the two ambassadors to the two countries would be released when a series of diplomatic and strategic considerations were concluded.
He noted that the sensitivity of the situation in Syria is one of the reasons why the appointment of the ambassador to Damascus was delayed.
The news website noted that the appointment of Iranian ambassadors is subject to strict censorship by the intelligence branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its Qods Force brigade that focuses on Iran’s extraterritorial activities.
Reports indicated that the administration of President Hassan Rouhani had been severely criticized in the Iranian parliament due to the delay of the appointment of the ambassadors for the two aforementioned countries, especially to Syria, where there are Iranian forces fighting alongside Assad regime forces.
In April, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, the former deputy foreign minister for Arab and African affairs, was chosen to head up the Iranian embassy in Muscat, but he withdrew himself from consideration for “personal reasons”.
Source: Middle East Monitor.
Abu Dhabi (AFP)
Oct 22, 2014
Abu Dhabi energy company Masdar said Wednesday it will build a 50-megawatt wind farm in neighboring Oman that will provide 16,000 homes with clean energy.
The $125-million project, the first large-scale wind farm in the six nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council, would be constructed in the southwestern region of Dhofar, Masdar said in a statement.
Masdar signed a joint development agreement with Oman’s Rural Areas Electricity Company to build the farm, which would mitigate 110,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide yearly, it said.
Masdar is overseeing Abu Dhabi plans to generate seven percent of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2020.
It said last month it was partnering with Norwegian firms Statoil and Statkraft to build a multi-billion dollar offshore wind farm in Britain, big enough to power 410,000 homes.
The company already has a 20-percent stake in the 630-megawatt London Array project, the world’s largest offshore wind farm.
Abu Dhabi is the wealthiest of the seven sheikhdoms that make up the federation of the United Arab Emirates.
It sits on proven oil reserves totaling 98.2 billion barrels — 95 percent of the UAE’s reserves, which are the world’s seventh largest. It also has a large gas reserves.
Source: Wind Daily.
Tewksbury, Mass. (UPI)
Jan 27, 2014
An advanced surface-to-air missile system developed by Raytheon and Norway’s Kongsberg Defense Systems is being purchased by the Sultanate of Oman.
The purchase order — a direct sales contract — is valued at $1.28 billion and includes provisions for the supply of ground support equipment, training and technical assistance, Raytheon reported.
“The Sultanate of Oman’s competitive selection of Raytheon’s National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System validates the superior performance, system adaptability and overall security that NASAMS provides,” said Dan Crowley, president of Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems. “Raytheon is committed to delivering the exceptional defense capabilities of NASAMS to Oman.”
NASAMS is a modular, networked ground-based medium to long-range air defense system for AIM 120 AMRAAM missiles. It works with the Patriot Air and Missile Defense System and the Hawk Air Defense system and is used by Norway, the Netherlands, Spain and Finland. It is also deployed by the U.S. military in the National Capital Region.
A NASAM system consists of missile launchers, radars, a fire control center and a tactical control vehicle.
Raytheon said work on supplying the system to Oman will be conducted by Raytheon at its Integrated Air Defense Center in Andover, Mass., and in Kongsberg, Norway.
Kongsberg is a sub-contractor of NASAMS elements to Raytheon. Its work on the Oman project is worth more than $440 million.
“The cooperation with Raytheon has over the years developed into a close and strong partnership with a large potential market for our air defense solutions,” said Walter Qvam, chief executive officer of Kongsberg. “This agreement with Oman is the single largest supply contract in Kongsberg’s history and is strong evidence of NASAMS’ international position.
Added Harald Annestad, president in Kongsberg Defense Systems: “NASAMS is the most sold air defense system in its class in the last 10 years. Its modularity and open architecture enable a continuous evolution in performance to meet the latest threats.”
The contract for the system was signed at a ceremony attended by Mohammed bin Nasser al-Rasbi, secretary general at the Omani Ministry of Defense, Air Vice Marshal Matar bin Ali al-Obaidani, commander of the Royal Air Force of Oman, and others.
Neither the number of systems ordered by Oman nor their schedule for delivery have been announced.
The original NASAMS program by Raytheon and Kongsberg began as a joint effort on behalf of the Royal Norwegian Air Force. It became officially operational in 1998.
Raytheon, in announcing the contract with Oman late last week, said it was awarded in the fourth quarter of last year.
Source: Space Mart.
DUBAI – Oman and neighboring Gulf states must move towards curtailing energy consumption drastically, reduce subsidies and boost efficiencies to keep the region’s rapidly rising oil and gas demand in check, the sultanate’s top energy official said Monday.
“We must drastically reduce our consumption, not only in Oman but in the region as a whole,” Oman’s Minister of Oil and Gas Dr. Mohammed Hamad Al-Rumhy said in a national keynote address at the first Gulf Intelligence Oman Energy Forum in Muscat today. The forum’s theme is focused on game changers impacting the Omani and global energy industry.
Today, the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states consume more primary energy than the whole of Africa even though their population is only one-twentieth the size of the continent’s, according to Chatham House’s Saving Oil and Gas in the Gulf report published in August. Heavily-subsidized energy has fuelled consumption growth in the region in recent years and led to rising energy subsidy bills for governments. According to International Monetary Fund estimates, energy subsidy costs in GCC countries ranged from 9-28% of government revenues in 2011.
“Subsidy is killing us. We should preserve energy on a daily level and use it wisely, which we’re not doing. We can do so much ourselves. We don’t need to start any nuclear, coal, bio-fuel activities in Oman,” the minister said. He added that there wasn’t much need for the sultanate to pursue renewable energy projects at present as “there is enough gas in the world.”
Abdulla Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, President of Qatar’s Administrative Control & Transparency Authority and the country’s former oil minister, said in an on-stage interview at today’s forum that GCC states need to make a collective effort to curtail energy subsidies or be faced with drastic consequences.
“This is not a single country issue but a GCC problem. The region needs to move quickly to find a solution,” he said.
The emergence of Gulf states as major energy consumers has fuelled concerns over their ability to maintain oil export capacity. Domestic oil consumption among Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) members has increased seven‐fold in 40 years, to 8.5 million bpd. They consume almost as much oil as China, which is equivalent to one-fourth of their production.
According to OPEC Secretary General Abdalla Salem El-Badri, who gave the international keynote address at the forum, the organization should be able to produce an additional 6 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude by 2018.
The increase would make up for declining output elsewhere, in particular in the U.S. where tight oil output is expected to start declining that year, El Badri said. OPEC output stood at 30.05 million bpd in September, down 400,000 bpd versus August levels.
Oman is the largest oil producer in the Middle East that is not a member of OPEC. The sultanate has set ambitious targets to boost the share of oil it produces from Enhanced Oil Recovery projects by 2021 in a bid to sustain a five-year trend of rising crude production levels. The country is also moving forward with an ambitious program to diversify the local economy as it seeks to reduce its dependence on income from hydrocarbons, add value to its oil and gas resources, and create jobs for its young and growing population, while at the same time strengthening ties with East Africa and South Asia.
“Oman is in an advantageous position and we must continue to make the most of our geographical location. We, as a nation, are at the gateway of the rapidly expanding regional as well as Asian and African markets,” said Mulham Al-Jarf, Deputy CEO of Oman Oil Company, which is the Title Partner at the Gulf Intelligence Oman Energy Forum.
Today’s forum is also being addressed by Nasser K. Al Jashmi, Under Secretary at Oman’s Ministry of Oil & Gas on the sultanate’s Oil & Gas In-Country-Value Program, and Dr. Aldo Flores-Quiroga, Secretary General, International Energy Forum (IEF) on Building New Partnerships for Post-Easy Oil Era.
Source: Middle East Online.