Friday, October 12, 2012

Aquaculture in Oman: Key Considerations for Investors

With 3,165 kilometers of pristine coastline and a deep drop-off ocean shelf, Oman is a prime candidate for fish farming, also known as aquaculture. In recent years, the Omani Government has indicated a particular desire to grow aquaculture operations within the Sultanate, both as a means of diversifying the national economy away from hydrocarbons and as a way to ensure domestic food security needs. The Omani aquaculture sector thus offers an array of potential opportunities for investors.

There are several key considerations that investors would do well to bear in mind when pursuing aquaculture projects in Oman. First, as with any investment project in Oman, it is important to select the appropriate local entity type for forming a permanent Omani establishment. Previous posts discuss the most commonly used options, such as a limited liability company or a branch to service an Omani Government contract.

Second, it would be important for investors to work with the Omani Government authorities to clearly establish up front the land use rights that will pertain to the project. As land ownership in Oman is generally limited to Omani and GCC nationals, the best way for a foreign investor to obtain land rights for a long-term aquaculture project in Oman likely would be via a usufruct, which can be granted for a period of up to 50 years for projects that contribute to Oman economic or social development.

Finally, and perhaps most crucially, investors would do well do work with the Omani Government authorities early in the process of planning the aquaculture project to arrange the procurement of all licenses necessary to operate the project, and to ensure that the term of these licenses would be commensurate with the term of the aquaculture project.