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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Domestic steel industry worth 5 billion in Oman

The Sultanate of Oman is aiming to become one of the Gulf region’s top iron and steel producer, with plans to invest USD 5 billion to boost productivity and construct new facilities as part of the government’s efforts to broaden the base of its economy for the coming years. With a clear directive to further strengthen its position in the country’s fast growing construction market, Danube Building Materials FZCO, the leading player in the construction, interior decoration and shop fitting industry, has announced that it will be channelling AED 50 million to develop a new steel facility in Mabella, Oman which will further strengthen its position in the Sultanate.

Spanning approximately 51,000 sq.ft. in the Mabella area, the facility will function as the logistics hub for Danube’s operations in Oman and will facilitate the storage of all stock including deformed bars and other structured steel like angles, channels, and plates. Upon completion, the facility will be ideal for all Omani construction companies to get their required supplies at highly competitive prices on account of the economies of scale generated through bulk purchasing done in Dubai. Furthermore, the manufacturer has also revealed that it will have large-scale imports of steel products from Turkey, China, Taiwan, Korea, South Africa, Ukraine, Russia, India, Saudi Arabia and Iran, which will then be processed to address varying customer requirements.

“The unprecedented growth of the real estate market in Oman has been fuelling intense activity in the construction scene, with the government focusing high interest into further advancing its local steel trade,” said Rizwan Sajan, Chairman, Danube Building Materials. “We consider Oman as a key market for our high quality building materials, and with more construction and real estate projects emerging within the Sultanate, this is truly the perfect time to invest significantly in expanding our operations there. This new facility will substantially increase our steel products output, thereby ensuring a steady supply of top-grade steel-based construction materials not only for the country but for the rest of our regional markets as well.”

As a relative newcomer to the steel sector, Oman has witnessed significant growth in its local steel industry in the last few years as a result of strategic utilisation of its energy resources, solid infrastructure and proximity to export markets. Industry analysts are optimistic of Oman’s potential to become a major steel producer in the region, with the government taking substantial investments in developing its steel production capacity primarily to supply the burgeoning local consumption, which is expected to hit 1.1 million tons by 2010. Given the favourable market landscape in the Sultanate, Danube is expecting its latest expansion effort to generate high revenues, while fostering strategic partnerships with more Oman-based partners.

“This new endeavour gives us an excellent opportunity to leverage the booming Oman steel market as well as the Sultanate's excellent relations with potential importing countries. Our expansion to Oman is a testament to our growing business, which has gone well beyond our UAE operations to reach the most booming markets in the region today. Our regional growth strategy to exploit high market demand for our products is driving our expectations for the achievement of our revenue goals for 2008, and we are looking forward to supply our steel products to future projects in the Sultanate,” concluded Sajan.

In addition to its Oman-based expansion, Danube has recently announced its plans to invest AED 200 million in the steel industry in UAE for 2008. Maintaining a high level of quality across all its products, the company is currently in the process of initial market testing to ensure the smooth delivery of its products to customers.
© 2008 Al Bawaba (
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Monday, September 29, 2008

6,000 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) stranded on Oman-UAE border

By Cynthia BalanaPhilippine Daily InquirerFirst Posted 02:15:00 09/28/2008
THE DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN Affairs Saturday ordered its embassies in the Middle East to extend assistance to some 6,000 overseas Filipino workers stranded on the border of Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

Acting Foreign Secretary Esteban Conejos Jr. said the OFWs were stranded on the border because of recent changes in the UAE’s visa rules which took effect on July 29.

The new policy directs previous holders of visas to the UAE to reapply as tourists, resulting in the rejection of thousands of visa applications from Filipinos.

“The Filipinos had been warned since March (about the new rule),” said Conejos.
Nevetheless, he said, the DFA would appeal to the UAE government not to drive them away.
At any rate, the DFA would first coordinate with UAE officials before deciding whether or not to repatriate the Filipinos, Conejos said.

He stressed repatriation would be a last resort considering the big number of OFWs involved.
Embassy officials in Muscat, Tehran and Abu Dhabi, as well as the Philippine consulate in Dubai, have been mobilized to deal with the problem.

“(The decision to repatriate the OFWs) will depend on how the UAE government responds to our request for leniency,” Conejos said.

Conejos said that since Sept. 23, a four-man consular team from the embassy in Muscat has been going to various hotels in Al Buraimi, along the border with Oman.

Nearly 1,000 OFWs were reportedly holed up at the Al Buraimi Hotel alone.

The stranded OFWs said they were being asked by the hotels to deposit their passports upon checking in.

The OFWs who exited from Al Ain in the UAE as a result of the change in visa policy entered Oman using three-day tourist visas issued by Omani authorities. However, their visas expired before they could get fresh UAE visit visas to enter UAE.

Starting Aug. 1 this year, Oman also stopped the practice of issuing visas to regular exit visitors.
Aminah Marduen, the coordinator at the embassy in Oman, said that Filipinos and many other foreign nationals entered Oman without being aware of the new Omani immigration law.
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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Qtel ‘eyes second Oman fixed line licence

DOHA: Qtel is bidding for Oman’s second fixed line licence, Reuters said yesterday quoting the London-based Middle East Economic Digest.According to Reuters, Oman has shortlisted six bidders for the Sultanate’s second fixed line telecommunications network that would break the monopoly of the State-run Omantel.Oman, which already has two mobile telephone operators and is also selling a stake in Omantel, is liberalising the telecom sector as parts of efforts to encourage foreign investment as its oil production dries up.
In an interview with Gulf Times in March this year, Qtel Group chief executive officer, Nasser Marafih had said: “Qtel will definitely be bidding for the new fixed line licence in the Sultanate. Qtel is waiting for the Omani authorities to announce the procedures for choosing another fixed line operator in the Sultanate.Qtel is already in Oman through Nawras, its joint venture with Denmark’s TDC and some Omani investors, which provides mobile phone service. Marafih had also said Qtel would certainly scout for more markets and expand its presence in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia to achieve its goal of becoming the world’s top 20 telecommunication companies by 2020.Nawras had been doing “very well” in Oman, Qtel chairman Sheikh Abdullah bin Saud al-Thani said recently.“The customer base grew 63% to 1.3mn in H1, 2008 with a 44.4% market share,” he said.
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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Spratly Islands

Group of several dozen small islands and reefs, south-central South China Sea. Located about midway between Vietnam and the Philippines, the group is claimed variously by Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Of the 12 main islets, the largest is the 90-acre (36-hectare) Itu Aba. Turtles and seabirds are the only permanent inhabitants. After World War II, China established a garrison on Itu Aba, which has been maintained by the Chinese government on Taiwan. All other claimants also have small military forces on several of the islands.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

New Zealand Extended Continental Shelf

New Zealand’s right to approximately 1.7m square kilometres of extended continental shelf seabed has been confirmed by the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.

The extended continental shelf is the shelf that extends beyond New Zealand’s 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

It is in addition to the approx four million square kilometres of seabed in the New Zealand EEZ. The extended continental shelf is about six times New Zealand’s total land area (about 270,000 square kilometres).

The New Zealand submission was the result of a 10-year, $44m project involving technical, scientific, legal and policy input from a range of New Zealand government agencies.

These include the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), Land Information New Zealand (LINZ), National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), and Institute of Geological and Nuclear Science (GNS Science).

New Zealand lodged its submission with the UN Commission in 2006 in accordance with the procedures in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea [external link].

Over the past two years, a team of New Zealand officials (from MFAT and LINZ) and scientists (from NIWA and GNS Science) have met four times with a special sub-commission set up to consider the NZ submission.

New Zealand’s team answered questions and provided further information on New Zealand’s continental shelf.

The Commission issued its recommendations on 12 September (2008). It has endorsed more than 98 percent of New Zealand’s original submission.

New Zealand can now set the outer limits of its continental shelf on the basis of the Commission’s recommendations, subject to agreeing maritime boundaries with Fiji, Tonga and possibly France (in respect of New Caledonia) to the north.

It’s not yet known what natural resources might be on the extended New Zealand shelf. However, the process ensures New Zealand enjoys sovereign rights over them.

The New Zealand Government already earns more than $100 million per annum in royalties and other income from the seabed within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Australia’s extended continental shelf was confirmed by the UN Commission in April 2008, and is about the size of Western Australia – approx 2.5 million square kilometres.

  • Information on the Continental Shelf Project in the “New Zealand Continental Shelf Report” published by Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) more

  • Information on the scientific work involved in the preparation of the New Zealand submission more

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

India Bangladesh Maritime Boundary

Sep 16th, 2008 By Sindh Today Category: India
Sep 16 (IANS) The location of a tiny island and the flow of a river into the Bay of Bengal are the main points of negotiation as India and Bangladesh discuss their maritime boundary after a gap of 28 years.

The island is called South Talpatty by Bangladesh and Purbasha or New Moore Island by India. The flow of Haribhanga river’s channels around it is one of the principal points of dispute between the two neighbours.

As per the rules drawn up by Sir Cyril Radcliffe for demarcating the border when India was partitioned and Pakistan was created in 1947, if there is a river on the border, then the mid-current of the river will be the borderline. Since its emergence in 1971, Bangladesh has been identifying its border according to the Radcliffe rules.

Bangladesh officials claim that the main channel of the Hariabhanga river flows through the west side of South Talpatty while their Indian counterparts claim the eastern channel is the main flow, The Daily Star newspaper said Tuesday.

The island is still in formation, visible only during low tides, emerging in the estuary of the Hariabhanga river, the bordering river in the south-western part of the country.

‘We’ve just started talks and the discussion has been very cordial,’ said M.A.K. Mahmud, additional secretary to the foreign ministry, who is leading the 15-member Bangladesh delegation at the three day talks that began Monday.

The northern reach of the Bay of Bengal is shared by India, Bangladesh and Myanmar. While India is both conducting its off-shore operations and allocating blocks for exploration to foreign multinationals, the latter approach is adopted by Bangladesh and Myanmar too.

In recent years, claims of overlapping territories have piled up with the three, particularly Bangladesh and India, challenging each other’s decisions.

Dhaka is claiming rights over an exclusive economic zone for extraction of marine resources, the New Age newspaper said Tuesday.

In the absence of an accepted exclusive economic zone, India and Myanmar recently opposed Bangladesh’s offshore block bidding for exploration of oil and gas even within the territorial sea of the country.

Also under discussion is the issue of continental shelves in the bay. The UN Convention on Law of the Sea allows a country to claim 350 nautical miles as its continental shelve.

Bangladesh and India had last held talks in 1980 to iron out differences on the contentious maritime boundary in the resource-rich Bay of Bengal.

Dhaka says New Delhi has been lukewarm to talks on maritime boundary, but its officials also blame their own lack of preparation and expertise to counter the Indian claims.

As signatories to the UN convention, Dhaka and New Delhi must submit their claims to the UN by 2011 and 2009, respectively.
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Friday, September 12, 2008

Latent TB Treatment Saves Time, Money, And Lives

ScienceDaily (May 23, 2008) — A new way to treat patients with latent tuberculosis (TB), who are infected with TB but without symptoms, can effectively treat it in less than half the time and at a lower cost than the current standard treatment, according to researchers who conducted a multi-center, randomized controlled trial.

"We found that using a therapy of four months of Rifampin instead of the current nine months of Isoniazid costs significantly less for the healthcare system," said lead analyst, Anne Aspler, M.Sc., of the Respiratory Epidemiology & Clinical Research Unit at McGill University's Montreal Chest Institute. "Overall, Rifampin costs about $484 less per patient treated, which, if we assume that four months of Rifampin has at least equal efficacy to nine months of Isoniazid, represents an added savings to the health system of more than $10,000 per patient prevented from developing TB disease. And because of improvements in compliance, we are actually preventing more cases. This treatment can save money as well as lives."

At present, two billion people are believed to have latent or dormant TB. Of those infected, eight to nine million will develop TB each year, of whom 1.6 million will die. "This is one of the most pressing public health crises in our modern world," said Ms. Aspler.

Rifampin is offered in developing countries, where TB presents the greatest burden, at a subsidized cost through the Global Drug Facility of the World Health Organization. In addition to the cost savings, therapy with Rifampin has the advantage of increased compliance.

"While Isoniazid therapy is 90 percent effective for those who complete it, in reality, fewer than 50 percent do," Ms. Aspler explained. The high attrition rate can have serious public heath effects, not only for the patients who fail to complete therapy, but also for the individuals they may later infect.

According to previous research and program experience in Maryland and New Jersey, a four-month treatment has been shown to improve compliance by 20 to 25 percent. In addition to better completion rates, a four-month course of Rifampin offers the advantages of fewer adverse reactions (fewer serious side effects such as hepatotoxicity or liver damage), and lower costs.
"The next step in research is a major Phase III clinical trial of efficacy--ideally in HIV-infected and non-infected patients and in low-income settings where tuberculosis is the leading cause of death in people living with HIV," said Ms. Aspler.

The results will be presented at the American Thoracic Society's 2008 International Conference in Toronto on May 20.

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Oman to fund Iran gasfield development

MUSCAT: Oman and Iran plan to complete the development of the Kish gasfield in the Gulf by 2012 with the GCC state footing the bill of up to $12 billion, an Omani energy ministry official said yesterday.

"Oman is going to wholly fund the Kish gasfield and we expect to sign an agreement at the end of 2008 so the plant can start producing gas for Oman by 2012," an oil and gas ministry project official said.

"The project will involve a 200km pipeline, mostly underwater, to Musandam and Sohar.

"Phase one of this project will transport gas to Oman at a rate of one billion cubic feet per day and then rising to 3bn cubic feet."

Iran and Oman signed a deal in April to jointly develop Iran's Kish gasfield at an estimated cost of between $7bn and $12bn, but did not give a timeline for the project at the time.

Iran's oil minister travelled to Muscat earlier this month to discuss the plans to export Iranian gas to Oman, from where it could be exported using an Omani liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant.

Iran has the world's second biggest gas reserves but has been slow to develop gas exports and has no LNG facilities, which supercool gas so it can be exported by ship.

Facing US sanctions and pressure, it has increasingly turned towards Asia and elsewhere to develop its oil and gas sector. The Islamic Republic's gas reserves were put at 27.80 trillion cubic metres at the end last year, compared to Oman's much more modest 690 billion cubic metres.

The gas heading to the Omani LNG facility will be used by the National Iranian Oil Company.
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Thursday, September 11, 2008

New Zealand Continental Shelf Extension

September 5, 2008, 10:35 am

New Zealand could be on the verge of winning a territorial and economic bonanza, with word due any day on a claim to 1.6 million square kilometres of continental shelf.

The claim was lodged with the United Nations Law of the Sea Commission two years ago after a 10-year $44 million research project to work out the limits of the shelf.

If successful, New Zealand would gain jurisdiction over an area of seabed six times the size of its landmass, giving it control of potentially enormous mineral resources that lie on or under the seabed beyond the existing 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

It includes a large area in the Tasman called Lord Howe Rise, a block extending north into the Pacific Ocean towards Tonga and Fiji, an area skirting the Chathams Rise to the east, and additional areas to the far south.

Foreign Affairs Ministry legal adviser Gerard van Bohemen told The Dominion Post newspaper the commission was believed to have made its decision, and the ministry expected to hear any day.

Even with a favourable ruling, agreements on New Zealand shelf boundaries still had to be reached with Fiji and Tonga.

Undersea boundaries in the Tasman Sea and the southern oceans were agreed with Australia four years ago.

GNS Science ocean exploration chief Ray Wood said securing the shelf would be a huge benefit for New Zealand .

There could be large oil deposits on the Lord Howe and Chatham rises, gold and other valuable mineral deposits on the Three Kings Ridge to the north of New Zealand , and manganese nodules worth billions in the southern parts of the shelf.

"The real challenge for us now is to work out what we have and how we use it in the future," Dr Wood said.

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