KARACHI PORT TRUST - BACKBONE OF NATIONAL ECONOMY

An interview with KPT chief

By NASIR MAHMOOD
Mar 06 - 12, 2006

Vice Admiral Ahmad Hayat took over as Chairman Karachi Port Trust on 01 June 2001. He has been Chief Instructor at the National Defense College from 1997 to 1999. This is the premier institute of higher learning for senior military and civil officers. His last assignment was Director General Munitions Production at the DP, Division, Ministry of Defense, and Pakistan Secretariat-II, Rawalpindi. From July 1995 to July 1997 he was appointed as a Principal Staff Officer at Naval Headquarters with the designation of Deputy Chief of Naval Staff (Supply Services). In recognition of his outstanding services to the Navy the Flag Officer was awarded Sitara-e-Imtiaz (Military) in 1995 and Hilal-e-Imtiaz (Military) in 2000.

Ahmad Hayat had joined Pakistan Navy on 10th November 1964 and was commissioned on 1st December 1968. He held various Command and Staff appointments afloat and ashore, including as Secretary to the Chief of the Naval Staff and Commanding Officer Air Stores Depot. He is a graduate of Pakistan Navy Staff College, Post Graduate of National Defense College, and Master in Administrative Sciences from US Naval Postgraduate School Monterey California (USA). He has also done Masters in Business Administration from Golden Gate University San Francisco Ca. USA, and specialized in Logistics from PN Logistics and Management School and USN Logistics School at Athens Ga. USA. At the Naval Headquarters the Admiral has served on various senior appointments as Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Budget & Management), Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Logistics), and Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Works).

Karachi Port has always played a vital role in the economic growth of Karachi in particular and the country in general. In order to sustain its fundamental role effectively, the current leadership of the port is endeavoring to equip the port well to meet the growing challenges of this strategically important organization. It may be recalled that in the past an ocean going vessel used to have a capacity of 2,500 containers, yet the situation has been changed altogether with the growing demand of cargo movement around the globe. Now the efforts are in the pipeline to enhance the capacity of a cargo vessel to the level of a massive capacity of 6,000 containers.

Nowadays in Korea and Germany there are ships on drawing board, which could bear a load of 18,000 containers of 20 ft. Just imagine when those ships would come into sail, how big infrastructure of the ports it would require. A port's minimum life ranges between 30 to 50 years, how you can meet such challenges of the present world. Therefore, mostly ports are in disadvantageous position in view of such changes. The present team of KPT managers led by its chairman, Vice Admiral Ahmad Hayat has firmly decided to build 10 new berths along the left of the break waters costing $800 million with a depth of 18 meters. This expansion is much needed because now 18-meter is considered as the benchmark around the shipping world. Another mile stone in the history of KPT is the construction of a cargo village that would be constructed near Marine Academy. KPT has already acquired up to 1,300 acres of land for the purpose. In order to have an easy and frequent access to this forthcoming cargo village, there would be a bridge to connect new berths and the cargo village bonded area. It is interesting to note that this cargo village would be linked to the under construction Lyari Expressway and Northern Bypass by road and rail - both bound to give a new look to the shipment activities at the Karachi Port.

PAGE conducted an interview with the KPT Chairman to have an update about the on going activity in the port which is no doubt an engine of growth not only for the country but for other land locked neighboring countries.

PAGE: WOULD YOU LIKE TO SHARE YOUR DEVELOPMENTS PLANS OF MAKING THE PORT MORE EFFICIENT IN THE REGION?

AHMAD HAYAT: The ports should always be deeper and modernized, but making new ports is not a joke, it requires huge investment and rich planning. Three years back I thought to upgrade Karachi Port to meet the challenges of third, fourth and fifth generation. We made a consortium of two foreign and one local firm to have a study on this line. They took two years to prepare the study, and we are now in a position to decide where we should build the deep draught container terminal and where we should construct our cargo village. They recommended for having 16-meter deep berths but in the last ten months this recommendation was altered and they said it must be 18 meters deep. It shows the rapid changes in the world ports structure. This is economy of scales.

PAGE: KINDLY TELL US ABOUT THE CURRENT ACTIVITIES IN KPT

AHMAD HAYAT: As you have seen last week we had arranged an international conference (IAPH), which was the first time that International Association of Ports and Harbors held this event in Pakistan. IAPH is a world body that was launched in Los Angeles in 1953. Tokyo is its present Headquarters. KPT had sponsored this two-day event. Participants from 21 countries were invited for this purpose plus various international speakers on different topics. It was a most successful conference. Basic theme of this event was that the port organizations should exchange their views and ideas.

The major benefit we earned from this event was that our people have become aware of various new concepts, avenues and techniques while our port operators, shippers and sailors got some new exposures. Our people also read papers in addition to the foreign delegates in this conference.

The Chairperson is from Malaysia and the Secretary General of IAPH also participated and appreciated its output not only in regional context but also with international flavor because people from USA, England, Canada, Holland and Germany had also visited. And we got international exposure.

PAGE: WHAT WAS THE TYPE OF EXPOSURE YOU ACHIEVED?

AHMAD HAYAT: Like any other country we being Pakistani too could not live in isolation in this world. We have to be a part of this global village and play our role as an active partner. Most of the people in outside world still think that Karachi would be a small fishing village with a port of one or two jetties. But when they come to visit here they become amazed by seeing that here are deep draught berths and three big container terminals where the frequency of big ships is not less than any other prominent port in the world. I told them that during last six months our cargo handling had increased by 46 percent compared to last year. This was a record increase. This is an indication of the growing economy of the country.

PAGE: HOW DO YOU ANALYZE THE IMPACT AND BENEFITS OF THIS MAJOR EVENT?

AHMAD HAYAT: We will consolidate all the papers read in this conference and their conclusions. Then we will formulate our recommendations what more facilities and infrastructure we could provide for all three ports of Pakistan. And we will send these recommendations to the government and all the ministries concerned. Here, I give you an example that two years back we had also held our own conference, in which Indian delegation had participated first time along with their Secretary Ports & Shipping. At that time we held a separate meeting with them and discussed about the shipping protocol between India and Pakistan. Now this issue has arrived to the cabinet level, and as per the decision of cabinet this protocol would be finally signed. Under this renewed protocol ships of both countries would be able to operate as commercial liners by taking cargo for other countries of the region too, which was not presently allowed.

PAGE: DO YOU THINK THAT THE COUNTRY NEEDS INLAND WATER TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM THROUGH INDUS RIVER?

AHMAD HAYAT: To get cheaper means of cargo transportation within the country we must develop Indus Water Transportation System like other countries in the world. But the government could not do it alone. This is not an easy task as it requires both time and money . But we must concentrate on this sector.

PAGE: AS YOU HAVE ALREADY VISITED A LARGE NUMBER OF PORTS IN THE WORLD, HOW WOULD YOU COMPARE KARACHI PORT WITH OTHERS?

AHMAD HAYAT: Karachi port has a vast difference of facilities than other ports of the developed world. But our main problem is the human infrastructure; we don't realize that we are incapable. If somebody realizes that he is incapable for certain things then you could teach and train him. I am talking about port affairs only that we don't realize the world has gone far away. In my opinion our basic requirement is to pick up young men and women and send them for a lot of training. There must be no hesitation in training process. We should send our youngsters abroad to have a look that how the development works were being done there. There is no status quo in life the world over. In late sixties we were hub of the region, the reason was that Britain had made it a strong port in its era. We were ahead of Korea and Malaysia but now they are much advanced, and we are being compared with the countries like Nepal and Bhutan etc. The nations and the countries are taking over. If you have good management you could be able to develop yourself. Take an example of China, they were liberated one year after us but now they have progressed within last twenty years and they are much forward than India.

PAGE: HOW DO YOU SEE THE PORTS OPERATION IN A COUNTRY LIKE UAE?

AHMAD HAYAT: I do remember when I was lieutenant in Navy during 1972 we had visited Dubai; there we saw massive construction works going on. They were building their port and the ruler was Shaikh Rashid, grandfather of the present Shaikh. He had ordered to build three berths of 13-meter depth, which was an amazing decision at that time. After three years the first ship was berthed at that port. Then they extended up to seven berths. Later, he had gone outside Dubai because of land shortage, and started developing Jebal Ali. At that time people thought he was wasting his money but now his farsightedness is realised. Now you can't find even an office space in Jebal Ali. Last year when I visited there I was told that if you want a small office at that place you would have to wait for two years. During this time they will build new office for you and rent it to you. Last year their GDP growth was recorded at 15% and their port head told me that he was roaming world over in his plane to buy additional cranes for quick handling of the cargo. Thus in such a commercial environment you have to make decisions and payment on the spot.