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Growth of Gwadar port can help resolve maritime issues of Pakistan

Pakistan is blessed with unlimited natural and marine resources. Pakistan’s 1,200 kilometers lengthy coastline with the Arabian Sea is a god gifted area with natural harbors. It is a mid-sea section which joins the strategic oil line of the Persian Gulf with the Indian Ocean. Pakistani sea ports join the trade routes between East and West, which could be helpful to boost the economy of country. However, there are many issues that plague the maritime and fishery sectors for long.

Since Pakistan lags behind in technology; sustainability is impossible, which leads to massive wastage. The Deep Sea Fishing Policy has banned bottom sea trawling to protect marine life that is growing extinct. In addition to marine life, there is dire need to take measures to develop coastal population in Balochistan. Ambiguity and overlapping of laws and responsibilities has become a major challenge which must be addressed.

Pakistan has three big sea ports named as Karachi Port, Muhammad Bin Qasim Port and Gwadar Port. Port of Muhammad Bin Qasim is the oldest port while the Karachi Port is the busiest one. The Port of Gwadar is newly developed deep-sea port and one of the deepest ports across the globe with a depth that can handle 16-meter deep cargo ship. There are several ports which are under consideration and the feasibility for the Keti Bandar as a Fish Harbor is currently under way. There are different ports that are being developed into world class shopping centers beside the ports of Karachi, Bin Qasim and Gwadar.

 

Pakistan wants to develop Gwadar not only as an economic hub but also an oil city consisting of oil refineries and petrochemical complexes under CPEC. Gwadar’s port is being developed as part of the $64 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, an ambitious plan to build energy and transport links connecting the western Chinese region of Xinjiang with the Arabian Sea via Pakistan, as part of Beijing’s broader Silk Belt and Road initiative. The 80,000-acres mega oil city at Gwadar will be used to transport oil from the Gulf region to China through the Gwadar Port. This will reduce the distance to just seven days from Gwadar to the Chinese border instead of the current forty days. After the establishment of the oil city, Pakistan would be able to refine and store imported oil for onward transportation to China using the CPEC route, besides developing fuel supply chain for the landlocked Central Asian states.

Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE become part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) by pitching in to invest in Gwadar. Working on an “oil city” and oil refinery in Gwadar Port, which is the main port of the BRI’s “flagship corridor” CPEC, these Arab countries have automatically become linked to the most focal part of the BRI. Leading by example, Saudi and UAE involvement can encourage more Arab and African countries like Egypt to become involved in projects in Gwadar. Notably, the UAE has already been providing facilities to locals in the port city as it runs the Karachi-Gulf Express linking up Abu Dhabi, Jebel Ali, and Sharjah with Gwadar. Investing in logistics, ports, oil and gas infrastructure as well as the construction sector, the UAE is planning to set up an oil refinery worth $5 to $6 billion at Gwadar. In the future, Gwadar promises to become a “base station” for the Middle East as it can speed up the delivery of oil exports and imports across the region with consignments from the Middle East and Africa reaching China over a distance of just 3,400 miles.

The writer is a Karachi based freelance columnist and is a banker by profession. He could be reached on Twitter @ReluctantAhsan

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