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Ports of Pakistan set apart

Pakistan is blessed with one of the best sea routes of the world. Pakistan’s coastline is about 990 km long, bifurcated in two parts, Sindh Coast (270 km) and Makran Coast (720 km). Pakistan is undoubtedly one of the most strategically significant countries in the region and the world. On one side it is next to India, on other it is sharing border with China, Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia countries (which is Russia) and its sea side is touching Middle East, where US has largest presence. All the world’s significant events are currently happening in the countries around Pakistan, in fact most of the major events of the world in last 50 years and that is shaping the world today are happening in this region. The importance of seaports and shipping provide cheap and fast transport of the goods produced and exchanged, and seaports to facilitate that transfer of the goods from sea to land.

Geographically, the coast of Pakistan can be divided into five parts, starting from the Iran border at Gwadar Bay in the West up to the Indian border at Sir Creek in the East: i) Gwadar Coast ii) Lasbela Coast iii) Karachi Coast iv) Thatta Coast from Korangi Creek up to Indian border at Sir Creek and v) Rann of Kutch from Badin to Tharparkar Districts.

Seaports are such an integral part of international seaborne trade that, any mention of ports brings the images of wealth, high earning jobs and economic development of the regions where they are situated. The reality is, some ports such as those of Rotterdam (Netherlands), Singapore, Hong Kong are more successful in this respect than the ports of Mombasa (Kenya) and Dares Salaam (Tanzania). This clearly shows a correlation between country’s economic development and the role of ports in that economic development. Moreover, if we see the development of the countries having successful ports, it further reinforces the importance of development of ports in Pakistan. Trade between nations has always made a significant contribution in terms of increasing wealth among the countries. Today, over 80 percent of all trade is seaborne.

Pakistan is blessed with a long strip of sea shore whereas Pakistan can also provide land route to some of the big countries like Afghanistan, Extreme Western states of India, Central Asian Countries and south region of China. It is a fact that ports regions are always at an advantage when compared with those regions which are not situated by the sea or on rivers and the former have always been characterized by a relatively high standard of living which has also been reflected in their cultural achievements. For example, the Netherlands has been able to sustain a relatively high economic growth rate because of the Port of Rotterdam, in spite of the intensely competitive environment in the Europe. Similarly, the success of Singapore is attributed to the Port of Singapore which has successfully been able to attract foreign firms, in manufacture/assembly and has developed a transport logistic center.

Pakistan ports can have two dimensions; a port authority being an organization responsible for providing various maritime services required to bring ships alongside, and as a terminal being a section of the port consisting of one or more berth and dedicated to a particular type of cargo. While the definition is concentrated on the traditional functions of the port, that of the transfer of cargo from one mode to the other, but in reality it’s a complex business, with many vested interests from many parties. Ports in Pakistan are also facing some very serious challenges which even covers the national security matters.

Ports not only provide a space for unloading cargos but there are various sectors which also gets promotion and can provide millions of jobs. It is important fact that ships carry huge loads that means that there is a need for storage to reduce the lots size to be carried by the other smaller modes of transport. Because of the need to store and distribute, ports provide numerous opportunities, for example, warehouses, cold storages, trucks and logistic, service sector including tax consultancy, food, hospitality, and many others.

Pakistan can get maximum advantage of its geographic location, for instance, the importance of a port is as follows. The main transport link with trading patterns and thus a focal point for rail and motorways. A major economic multiplier for the nation’s prosperity, because they attract commercial infrastructure in the form of banks, agencies as well as industrial activities

We need to keep in mind that it is not automatic that a Gwadar or any other port of Pakistan will attract the kind of business it desires. There are various aspects which Government of Pakistan needs to consider in developing Gwadar port in particular, making terms with the trade patterns, demands by the shipping lines, competition from other ports for cargo, and the need to stimulate economic development by reducing transport costs and security and stability in the country.

The responsibility of who provides what services depends on the ownership structure of the port. From the beginning most ports were state owned in the world which were later privatized. In Pakistan, ports are in public sector only, which is a need of the day, we like it or not. An investment in port facilities is normally a long term undertaking with a time horizon of between 10-25 years. The costs are enormous and mainly sunk costs. Gwadar Deep Water Port is being constructed as the third port of Pakistan. Government of Pakistan could not come up with funds to invest in Gwadar Port and on in other ports because of scarcity of funds. Therefore, China is developing the Gwadar Port for Pakistan under CPEC.

Technological impact on port evolution is also important. For a port to contribute to economic development it has to meet the changing demands of the trade. As per the World Bank study, ports have to be an adaptive entities, which means ports have to adapt to the changes in trade and trade patterns, innovations in ships and ship types, cargo carrying and handling equipment etc. The cost of operations of Jebel Ali Port in Dubai, and Salalah Port in Oman are higher than ports of South Asian countries. Therefore, it is important for the Government of Pakistan to provide smart solutions to sea traders, this can be done through improved terms, optimizing cargo handling, automating customs clearance, good transportation services, cargo safety and better infrastructure.

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