Middle East’s first SHEETROCK brand gypsum board manufacturing plant is set to leverage its strategically advantageous location in Salalah to target lucrative regional markets with its internationally renowned SHEETROCK brand of products.
USG Zawawi Drywall LLC SFZ’s state-of-the-art facility at Salalah Free Zone was officially inaugurated on 6th May marking the formal start of commercial production of its various range of gypsum board products earmarked primarily for export across the Middle East and Indian subcontinent.
The inauguration was held under the auspices of His Excellency Sayyid Mohammed bin Sultan Al Busaidi, Minister of State and Governor of Dhofar. Also in attendance were a number of dignitaries representing the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Ministry of Transport and Commmunications, Salalah Free Zone, Port of Salalah, Bank Sohar, Dhofar Power and representatives from the US Embassy.
The high-profile turnout attested to the socio-economic significance of the project as well as the stature of its shareholders. USG Zawawi Drywall LLC SFZ is a 50:50 partnership between US-based USG Corporation and Australia-based Boral, on the one hand, and Zawawi Minerals LLC, a prominent investor in Oman’s rapidly developing mining sector, on the other. USG and Boral are market leaders in the building materials industry providing a wide range innovative products and solutions for their customers.
On the occasion, Ann Mason, Economic-Commercial Officer from the US Embassy said, “We are pleased to see the opening of this successful U.S.-Omani venture. Building relations between the United States and Oman is a top priority of the U.S. Embassy and this work is a shining example of the strategic coordination that benefits both our countries. We applaud USG Boral and Zawawi Minerals for taking full advantage of the potential of Salalah Port and Free Zone and the U.S. Oman Free Trade Agreement.”
In addition, Rashad Al Musafir, Acting Chief Executive Officer, who was also present on this landmark event, commented, “Bank Sohar SAOG has emerged as a leading bank in the Sultanate. It has become a front runner in arranging and financing landmark deals that generate foreign exchange for the country.” The Bank supports projects by private and globally respected entities that encourage economic growth and generate local employment.
Commissioning of the Salalah plant, which has a capacity to produce 8 million sq metres of gypsum board annually, began in March 2015. The facility is equipped to manufacture a wide range of USG’s universally recognised SHEETROCK® gypsum boards, including products resistant to water, fire, sound, impact and mould.
Significantly, gypsum as raw material for the project is sourced entirely from a major gypsum quarry located in the Thamrait area of Dhofar Governorate. The quarry is operated by Zawawi Gypsum LLC, also jointly owned by USG-Boral and Zawawi Minerals LLC.
USG Zawawi Drywall LLC’s investment is in keeping with the Omani government’s economic policies advocating the sustainable commercialisation of natural resources to diversify the economy, create employment for Omanis as well as facilitate inflows of investment and know-how. The Salalah facility operates to the same stringent safety and environmental standards applied by USG at its facilities in the United States,” said Alawi Al Zawawi, Chairman of USG Zawawi Drywall LLC SFZ.
The exploitation of widely available natural gypsum deposits and subsequent value addition for eventual export represents a successful exercise in In-Country Value (ICV) generation, said Ramachandran, Director of USG Zawawi Drywall LLC SFZ. This project shall be adopting American environmental friendly manufacturing technology complying with all applicable national and international standards related to safety and environmental quality measures.
The gypsum board products manufactured with innovative USG technology will be marketed as “Made in the Sultanate of Oman” branding, thereby enhancing the Omani industrial brand image in the international markets, added Ramachandran.
Awadh Al Shanfari, CEO of Salalah Free Zone explained that the project is a re-enforcement of the Free Zone’s commitment to maximise the Sultanate’s mineral wealth through national and foreign partnership.
“In the past, we have been focusing on projects that can create new industries linked to the available raw materials in the Sultanate. As a result of our endeavours, we will be announcing more investments during this year,” he added.
Salalah Free Zone is one of the channels through which the government is looking for economic diversification through investment promotion. It is hoping to encourage the industry by finding ways to link sea, air and ground transportation routes with the regional and international networks that will contribute to the diversity of economic income and help achieve the goal of sustainable development in the Sultanate.
Bearing the prestigious SHEETROCK brand of USG Corporation, the oldest gypsum board manufacturers in the United States, gypsum board from the Salalah facility will be marketed across the Gulf and Indian Subcontinent. Uptake of the product is expected to be robust around the GCC where a commercial construction boom is already underway.
According to Curt Loring, General Manager of USG Zawawi Drywall LLC SFZ, the USD 37 million facility incorporates many of USG’s latest technologies. It will produce a wide range products with special certifications not currently manufactured or available in the GCC. These products are specially engineered for custom wall systems in demand by architects for commercial construction.
USG Zawawi Drywall LLC SFZ was designed to enable future expansion to double the plaster board capacity or add new products such as construction plaster in anticipation of high demand for these unique products, Curt Loring added.