Insight: NEOM Latest, Can Mega-Project Truly be Realised?
Saudi Arabia's mega ambitious mega-project NEOM, a planned smart city in Tabuk Province in northwestern Saudi Arabia, is now 20% complete, yet with much work still to be done, we explore the massive potential, viability, and opportunities for logistics firms with regard to the project.
The 20% completion claim emantes from NEOM CEO Nadhmi al-Nasr, and one-fifth of completion is already some achievement given the ultimate plan is to have multiple regions in the city, including a floating industrial complex, global trade hub, tourist resorts, and a linear city — all powered exclusively by renewable energy sources.
With a slated completion date of 2039, the total area of Neom is 26,500 km2 (10,200 sq mi), for a full insight to the project, watch the below video:
Regions in NEOM
The futuristic city is split into key regions which each serve a unique purpose, below is a quick insight into each:
The Line is a linear city 170 kilometres (110 miles) long and 200 metres (660ft) wide within the NEOM area. The car-free city is planned to be large enough to house nine million residents.
Developments here are an airport at Sharma, which would operate regular commercial flights between Riyadh and NEOM. The planned airport has been registered by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) with the code NUM.
Oxagon (originally named Neom Industrial City)
This is a floating industrial complex in the shape of an octagon. The complex focuses on modern manufacturing, industrial research and development centered on expanding the Duba Port. Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman expects Oxagon to become "a new focal point for global trade flows". Plans also include a desalination plant, a hydrogen plant and an oceanographic research center.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched the Trojena project, which will be the first major outdoor skiing destination in the Arabian Peninsula.
Sindalah is a 1,100,000 cubic yard luxury resort complex off the city coast. It is planned to have an 86-berth marina and three luxury hotels, and it could accommodate as many as 2,400 visitors daily.
Sustainability is at the core of NEOM, and an initiative called Agriculture Neom plans for 6,500 hectares (16,000 acres) of the surrounding land to become agricultural fields and to rely heavily on genetically engineered crops. It also plans to be a hub of renewable energy, green hydrogen, and zero waste desalination.
NEOM is moving quickly with a series of investments from outside of Saudi Arabia, and a host of sponsorships of global initiatives from within the Kingdom.
Recent reports indicate that NEOM has finalized a deal worth more than 21 billion riyals (US$5.6 billion) with a group of local investors, in the third investment to back the kingdom’s most ambitious project to diversify its economy in May/June, 2023.
China's Envision Energy has also secured a massive wind turbine deal at Saudi's $8.4bn NEOM green hydrogen mega-plant. Envision will supply almost 1.7GW of turbines to the Oxagon development (pictured above).
NEOM has also developed sponsorship deals with McLaren Racing and the Asian Football Confederation.
With the Port of NEOM recently opening, things are starting to get real for the mega-project.
NEOM’s director of urban planning Tarek Qaddumi has stated that he is aiming to beat deadlines for NEOM and wants people living in the city in under 7 years.
"The first substantial population living on the LINE will be in 2030," he recently said.
Sindalah is the first region aiming to be fully completed, with a goal to open in 2024. NEOM calls Sindala its 'luxury destination' with modernist architecture that speaks to the high-life.
Yet after releasing a progress update in early 2023, NEOM leaders sounded a positive note, with CEO Nadhmi Al-Nasr puts stating: “If we are to solve the challenges of tomorrow, we must face up to them today, no matter how difficult they may seem.
"At NEOM, we are addressing some of the most pressing challenges facing humanity by bringing together a community of the brightest minds committed to reimagining what a sustainable future will look like in 20 to 30 years, and building it today. We are redefining the future now. NEOM is open for business.”
Obstacles & Concerns
Several risk factors threaten the realization of NEOM that we list below. Perhaps the biggest of all is the time demands.
With highly ambitious targets, human rights groups have voiced concern over worker safety, while the unpredictable flows in the global economy, as well as global events - such as the recent pandemic - can easily throw a major spanner in the works.
Another major issue experts have pointed towards include lack of a comprehensive business plan, as well as the availability of the required raw materials.
Other key factors include the environmental dimension, while NEOM promises major environmental breakthroughs in sustainable living, it will likely disturb the environment in the short-term.
Finally, there is also the social considerations, with NEOM likely to attract a new, wealthy international elite, considerations have been raised over inequality within Saudi Arabia and with regard to workers within NEOM.
While many obstacles stand in the way of NEOM, Saudi Arabia is intent on building a reputation as a genuine world-leader with regard to new ways of living and operating.
Within this project are myriad opportunities for players across the supply chain, especially those with smart, digital operations in mind.
With such massive funding, geographical space and international interest in the project, NEOM, in some form, will certainly be realised, yet those wishing to get involved have to get the timing right as to when - and what - they get in the mix.
Read more: Port of NEOM Officially Open for Business