Operation delayed despite
issuance of licences to six applicants
FERRY TO SAIL BETWEEN
By AMANULLAH BASHAR
Oct 04 - 10, 1999
The Federal Government has granted permission to six parties in the
private sector to operate ferry service exclusively for passengers between Karachi, Gwadar
and Gulf countries.
Sources in Port & Shipping Department told PAGE that the permission
to operate ferry was given to six applicants in March last however none of them has come
out with a definite schedule for launching the service despite a lapse of over six months.
Prior to the approval of the proposal, the interested parties were persuading the Ministry
of Communication to get their project approved however after the job was done on the part
of the government they have gone to a deep sleep, sources remarked.
It seems that relevant parties are reluctant to go into operation
especially due to bitter experience the private sector had to go through during 1992. At
that time the government had issued licences to 40 shipping companies in the private
sector. The decision to induct private sector into shipping industry was taken to
reinforce the weakened strength of Pakistan National Shipping Corporation (PNSC).
Unfortunately the attempt to bring in the private sector into shipping industry proved to
be a futile exercise mainly because of the complexities of our bureaucratic system. Out of
the 40 licencees three had purchased ships. Two of the ships purchased by one company were
confiscated by the customs authorities because the said party had brought them into
Pakistan prior to the issuance of the relevant SRO. The importer was insisting on
concessional import duty allowed by the government to the 40 new licencees while the
customs were stick to the old customs rules. Another company which had gone into a
purchase deal with a foreign company could not make payments due to freezing of foreign
currency accounts after May 28, 1998 and had to abandon the scheme.
This gave a bad taste to the whole situation. Another shipping company
namely Tristar Shipping had started ocean going operations through a fleet of 6 vessels.
Whatever the reasons may be the Tristar also proved a big flop which thoroughly
discouraged others to come into the business. Consequently the other 37 licencees placed
their projects into the cold storage.
Another important factor stopping the permission holders to start
Karachi-Gwadar-Gulf countries ferry service is most probably the doubtful commercial
viability of the project. Beside that frequent air services are also available on the
proposed route which consume lesser time as compared to travel by sea.
Informed sources disclosed that private sector was more interested in
launching ferry service between Karachi and Bombay due to availability of plenty of
traffic on this route. Some efforts in this direction were also made through the SAARC
platform. However due to visa restrictions put up by Indian government, there are remote
chances for materializing of this project also.
Shaikh Jawed Chairman of Shippers Council at the Export Processing Zone
Karachi was however optimistic about the commercial viability of the proposed ferry
service. He was of the view that the permission holders are mistaken if they are reluctant
to go into operation due to doubtful commercial viability of this sector.
"The secure and strategic location of the deep drafted natural
coast of Gwadar with close vicinity to the Arabian countries distinguish it from rest of
the ports in Pakistan," Shaikh Jawed observed. It is going to be the most outstanding
port of Pakistan in the next Millennium" he remarked. The present government has
already announced development programme for Gwadar port. Once the infrastructure
facilities are provided it should be the centre of attraction especially for the business
community. Keeping its strategic location in mind it should be placed on top of the list
for development of export processing zones in Pakistan. He said that instead of spending
time and money for the development of different zones in the upcountry, the government
should give priority to the development of Gwadar port accompanied by export processing
zone. The business community specially at Karachi is fed up with uncontrolled pollution,
law and order and other hazards persisting for over a decade. The attractive business
venue at Gwadar would be a great attraction for the businessmen he observed.
The proposed ferry service, being the cheapest source of travel, would
not only facilitate the regular traffic but would create a lot of tourism business on this
route. It would emerge as the most attractive voyage for the people who like to go on
pleasure trips within the country as well as visitors from abroad.
If the local parties are reluctant to go on with their ferries, a lot
of foreign investment can easily be available which can be tried just by throwing tenders
in media locally and abroad, Sheikh Jawed said with confidence.