Saturday, January 31, 2009

"The Musandam Experience"

Gary Arndt has been traveling the world for the past two years. He has been in over 50 countries so far. Last week he was here in Oman. I have been following his travels in the UAE and Oman on his blog and on Twitter. While in Muscat last week, Gary heard about the Musandam ferry and decided to take it. But no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't get any information on it. This is what he wrote on his blog:

Having read numerous articles about the ferry to Musandam I figured it would be as easy as taking a bus or a plane. All I needed to do was find out the schedule, get in a taxi and go to the ferry terminal at the right time.

It hasn’t quite worked out that way.

It seems that everyone I’ve talked to in Oman has heard of the ferry, but no one actually knows anything about it. I’ve spoken to five travel agents near my hotel. None of them offer ferry tickets nor know where to go to get tickets. No one in my hotel knows anything. None of the cab drivers know anything or where to take me to get a ticket. There is no website for the ferry company. All the searches you do bring up articles about the ferry, but no actual information on how to get tickets nor can I find links to a website from the articles. I have been told by one taxi driver you get tickets in Ruwi, but he didn’t know where that was. One Omani told me that they are only for government officials (which I have no idea if that is true).

This huge investment the government made in high speed, world class ferries is pretty much useless as no one knows how to take it, even if they wanted to.
In the end he managed to get to the ferry with the help of blogger, Arun Rajagopal, who tweeted the information to him on Twitter (isn't social media great?).

Gary later posted a damning review of the whole situation on his blog in which he calls the Musandam ferry: "perhaps the worst run business I have ever witnessed in my life". He goes on to detail why as follows:

Why is this a horrible business?

  1. The car ferry has never transported a car. In the excitement to have the world’s fastest ferry, they never built a ferry terminal to support loading cars onto the boat. It only carries passengers right now. I have seen no activity towards building an actual terminal for cars.
  2. The flight to Khasab is 55 minutes versus 5 hours for the ferry. The cost is the same. An airplane can carry as many vehicles as the ferry right now: zero. You have to show up at the ticket office two hours before the ferry leaves to get on a bus to take you to the ferry.
  3. The operating costs of the ferry are enormous. It burns 18,000 liters of fuel each trip. Even though Oman is an oil producer, with subsidized fuel it is almost impossible to break even with a full boat. There were about 10 crew on board the ship that I could tell and there would probably be more if they had to load cars. The snack bar was open and everything was free. There were about 20 passengers on the boat when I took it.
  4. There is no website where you can buy tickets. There are no agents which you can buy tickets from. I’ve seen no marketing material of any sort except for a very nice full color brochure you get after you buy a ticket. There has been no advertising and no one in Muscat seems to know anything about the ferry other than it exists and it is the best in the world.
  5. Musandam, the destination for the ferries, has a total population of 30,000 people and three hotels. They probably couldn’t support a full boat of people if they had one.
  6. The ferries were not designed for long haul routes. They were designed for trips no greater than an hour. The engines are being used far more than they were designed for with 5 hour trips. As a result, mechanical problems and issues with spare parts will start creeping up over the next few months.

He ends his rant with: "The ferry is sort of a microcosm of what you see in much of Oman: pretty cool looking, but sort of dysfunctional once you look behind the scenes." [link]


It's been six months since the ferry was launched, what excuse does the National Ferr Company have for still not having set up a website for its service? You'd think that with their ferries going close to empty most of the time they'd actually do everything they can to let the whole world know about them. This is definitely not the kind of comments the Ministry of National Economy was hoping for when they launched this service, but then again who can they blame but themselves for the continuing bad publicity that this service keeps getting.

You can read all Gary's posts about Oman by clicking here.

Related post: Ferry to Khasab


TI3GIB said...

Saw this on the twits today.

Funny thing is, I have a draft in my blog that raises simillar points that I never posted.

Thanks for doing it instead of me Gary.

Lost in thought said...

That's bad, real bad!
It looks more like a leaking bucket then a profitable business !

Muscato said...

One them - there are two, aren't there, of these ferries? - is now apparently doing some kind of sunset cruise.

I found this out because I was having a coffee at Costa on Thursday and it appeared, kind of drifting, off Shatti. Smoke was drifting off the bow, and the general consensus for a while was that it was in distress. It just sat there for a while, then drifted off. Surreal.

Sangeetha Sridhar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sangeetha Sridhar said...

Infact I went back to read an old post here

And now this goes on record online?!

Muscato: yes they do a Sunset cruise and I had quotes from them for a private party. They suggested lunch onward was better timing (catering from Oman Aviation).

Sangeetha Sridhar said...

National Ferries Company Website has an update:

Mean Reds in Muscat said...

The handful of travel agents in town who know about the ferry will tell you the ride takes six hours, and it has the most ridiculous schedule imaginable: leaving from Muscat at 3 pm and arriving in Khasab at 9 pm. So, you see nothing (assuming you can see the coast from where the ferry is). The return is no better. You lose one full day in each direction.

To my mind, the plane makes much more sense, though the return schedule on every day except Friday has you leaving Khasab first thing in the morning.

Anonymous said...

The guy is not saying anything that hasn’t already been said before.
The Ferry Company’s continuing inability to ever “get their act together” is exemplified by the abysmal stall they have in Muscat Festival.
Despite the fact that Muscat Festival opened 19days after it usually did, (to accommodate the Football) the stall opened 10 days after the festival started – either way you look at it, they were badly late.
Despite all the extra time taken it looks as if the stall it were put together by amateurs.
The plywood joins are clear for all to see, the paint job beggars description and aint exactly the best available in Muscat – without considering the alternatives.
Did the management really think that that was a good job?
Good enough to represent a multi million Rial business.
Good enough to persuade potential passengers to become actual passengers?
Haven’t they even realised that stalls have moved on from 30 years ago?
Look at Bank Muscat’s opposite them!
The Ferry management even managed to approve a miss spelt company name – in both Arabic and English – very even handed.
On the other hand, perhaps they care so little for the company that employs them that it was deliberate!
While ‘construction’ team may well have done the job they were paid for – how on earth did the object get approved by the owner’s managers’ .
It’s in an extraordinary prominent position and yet manages to give out all the wrong signals.
What on earth will happen when they need to promote the additional 3 ferries (total 5 are to be delivered)

princejacub said...

35I believe the ferry service has become more popular now and if the number of passengers using the service is any indication.
The crew at Muscat is hospitable, access-sable and reasonably quick. But the crew at Khassab most of them are crap.Slow in action and less hospitable and vasta plays major role.
While I traveled from Muscat to Khassab the ferry was delayed by 15 to twenty minutes because of a late comer had to park his car inside. The crew lowered the ramp once more and good cooperation.
But while returning from Khasab I had a bitter experience. Reporting time was changed from 2.30 to 1.30 noon which was not informed while booking my ticket.I reported by 2.35 considering the previous reporting time and the staff in the counter couldn't accept the delay. I tried to convince why I was I delayed the intimation on changed reporting time was not printed on ticket and neither was informed while the ticket was issued.However they said it is question of their job security and they could not cooperate.As my journey was important I cancelled my ticket and took up the road for my return. Cancellation further cost me another 15 rials.
I consoled myself that someones job shall not be in trouble because of me.That became a cruel joke during my next journey from Khasab. I reported in time that's by 1.30 sharp. Boarded in time parked my car and patiently waited to start by 3.00 PM. It didn't start anyway until 3.10 and what I noticed then was lowering the ramp again to board one land cruiser.I could imagine that he must be some one having little bit vasta with the staff and therefore no threat for anyone's job. The travel started by 3.20. While this is meant for attracting tourists to the country why the personnel preference of staff getting more attention and real tourists getting embarrassed like this...?

Musandam Dibba said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Musandam Dibba said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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