EXPANSION PLAN AND TIMELINE – OPERATIONALIZATION OF GWADAR PORT
Recently, the federal government decided to operationalize Gwadar Port and the Western route of CPEC by allowing the import of Afghani bulk cargo of wheat, fertilizers and sugar in a bonded carrier, insured and in sizeable trucks having GPS tracking system.
This decision of shifting the huge quantity of Afghani cargo to Gwadar Port will facilitate the Chinese company more, responsible for maintaining and running Gwadar Port, as lion’s share of profit (more than 90%) will automatically be harvested by them.
Although, diverting Afghani and the other Central Asian States (possibly Russian Cargo) cargo passing through the Gwadar Port and Western routes of CPEC is a dream for Pakistan, the same will be beneficial only when main Chinese cargo to the tune of 400-500 million tons passes through Gwadar Port.
Our share in Gwadar Port’s profit is less than 10%, it will provide an adequate amount to the national exchequer.
KPT and Qasim ports are a few of the public sector companies that run into profit annually and have huge funds for development.
KPT in the past has also put in money in Karachi road infrastructure to improve the connectivity of the Port with the rest of the country.
In addition, KPT has also built a deep water container terminal to accommodate bigger container ships.
The same has been operational since May 2018. Unfortunately, Karachi Port is still far from its maximum capacity of ships/cargo handling and is running lower than 50% of its true potential.
This new extension of port facilities needs more cargo, which is not available now nor anticipated in times to come.
This new construction has also damaged Clifton beach and the environment of adjoining populated areas.
The Great Sand Wall has risen from the dumping of extracted sand from the dredging of a deep-water port. This sand wall has already made a big fountain nonoperational, installed along Karachi beach, in addition to obstruction in the great view of the sea from land.
Moreover, when the sea breeze blows over this wall of sand, it spreads a huge quantity of sand all over the adjoining populated areas, posing an environmental hazard for breathing. This area was heaven for maritime tourism and underwater life.
Unfortunately, this has also been compromised. Last but not the least, KPT had plans to construct a huge bridge over Karachi harbour, connecting the Maripur area passing through Manora, Baba and Bhit Islands.
This was to connect the new terminal to Super Highway to reduce the traffic congestions. This was an ambitious project, costing huge funds to the tune of billions.
Moreover, in addition to ecological hazards for marine life in and around Karachi Harbour, pillars of the bridge in the area could have caused a huge amount of silt accumulation, requiring additional dredging in Karachi Port. This plan was a no-go from the start, hence, never took off.
An objection is not on the construction of the additional facility in KPT jurisdiction, but the timing and location.
When the decision of constructing an additional deep seawater port was taken for Karachi, Gwadar Port was already an operational port.
Need of the hour at that time was to invest in Gwadar Port to make it attractive for shipping lines. KPT could have invested as equal partners and constructed a few berths in Gwadar Port.
This move would have facilitated KPT to claim a major share as an equal partner of the port operation of Gwadar.
The question arises that if Singapore or Chinese Port operators can indulge in Gwadar Port operations, or Chinese companies indulging in acquiring ports around the globe as port operators; why KPT preferred to continue to look inward.
Mind it, Gwadar will open the gateways to Western China for its import/exports and investors will surely reap huge benefits.
Another factor is the Pakistani businessmen opting to prefer Gwadar or KPT/Qasim Port Complex.
It is also envisaged that Pakistani businessmen will also prefer Gwadar Port when fully operational under the efficient Chinese management for their imports/ exports.
This will be because Gwadar Port will provide the fastest connectivity to the world‘s ports, whereas, the number of ships visiting Karachi or Port Qasim will further shrink. Luckily, time is still favouring KPT.
The KPT may consider investing in Gwadar Port by constructing berths as an equal business partner to Chinese counterparts.
It is also proposed that the Government of Pakistan may carry out a feasibility study to look into the possibility of making Gwadar, Karachi and Qasim ports as a single Port Complex.
This will facilitate the handling of different types of cargo for different locations/ports.
Moreover, the construction of 70-100 berths for possible 400-500 million tons of cargo handling needs money as well as at least 20-25 years.
But if KPT and Port Qasim are made partners to Chinese cargo handling operations by the year 2030 (when Western China will be ready for import/export through Pakistan), then it will be a win-win situation for all; China can utilize existing ports potential available in KPT and Qasim, whereas, Pakistan reaping the due profit.
Here, it is pertinent to mention that the global strategic environment suggests that both Pakistan and China may need to expand their business in times to come and utilize facilities of Iranian ports also. (Concluded)