May 12 - 18, 2008

Though Balochistan's first deep-sea port at Gwadar has gone into operations, yet it faces enormous challenges ahead in order to emerge as a trade and transshipment hub of the region. Gwadar port is to compete internationally to get its rightful share in the world cargo. This requires efficiency on the part of port operators and installation of modern equipment at the port. Islamabad has already declared Gwadar port as petrochemical and POL storage field for what it has sought $12.5 billion investment from China. The port project aims to accommodate facilities that will help to develop Gwadar as an industrial city - privately owned warehouses and cold storage, private cargo-handling equipment, truck yards, and corporate infrastructure such as offices along the same lines as Jebel Ali, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore.

Gwadar port has depth of 14.5 meters and approach channel of five kilometers. Three multipurpose berths of 210 meters in width have been built. The port can handle Bulk Carriers of up to 50,000 DWT through its three berths. Gwadar port is ready to handle fertilizer and rice shipments for export, as proper bagging infrastructure is available at the proximity of the port. It is going to emerge as world's next biggest skyline. In view of its promising future, Gwadar has attracted the business community not only from Pakistan but also abroad. Its strategic location as the southern extension of Pakistan into the Arabian Sea renders itself as an egress gateway for transit traffic into the landlocked CARs, Afghanistan and Iran. This geographic advantage endows Gwadar with the potential of becoming a commercial and economic hub of the Indian subcontinent much on the same format as port cities like Dubai and Hong Kong.

Gwadar lies on main shipping lanes. While hub ports of the Gulf are located on western side of Gwadar, Sri Lanka and Indian ports are on its eastern side. Gwadar is strategically located outside the sensitive area of Strait of Hormuz- a major conduit for global oil supplies in the region. Pakistan's economic future is linked with this strategically and commercially important prize port in Balochistan. Presently, the country's cargo is being transshipped through Omani port of Salalah or Dubai ports. As the Gwadar port has become operational, it is likely to compete with the foreign ports in saving time and revenue. The opportunity for Gwadar port to become natural choice for major shipping lines should not be missed.

Gwadar can be developed into a multipurpose and mother port of the region provided all the available natural advantages are exploited and developed to the fullest advantage of the emerging port on Balochistan coast. The port has been designed as a hub port which can accommodate mother-ships of Post Panamax category but not those ships of larger size presently on drawing boards and need a draft of 18 meters and above. The dredging was carried out to deepen the approach channel to 14.5 metres and third dredger was also inducted to expedite the process. The deepening of approach channel was to be carried out under phase-II but it was also included in phase-I to keep the status of the Gwadar port.

Local experts have given following proposals to fully exploit the port's potential stressing the need to look into all aspects surrounding the strategic port.

The Gwadar port should be extended. First extension may be in the East Bay with an area of 17,300 meters from Sur Bandar to forward leading light (navigational mark). It may be converted into a harbor of immense size. It would only need to have anchoring, mooring buoys where ships can easily load and discharge in sheltered waters. The depth available is excellent in the East Bay area where little would have to be spent on dredging. The second extension for more berths will be that off the coast from Sur Bandar onwards for another 44 kilometers. These measures, according to the experts, could develop Gwadar into a mega seaport catering to the needs of rapidly growing Asian economies.

Gwadar fish harbor should be merged into Gwadar deep-sea port. It would bolster the capability and also remove bottlenecks being created due to jurisdictions of land areas of both the harbors. If the Gwadar fish harbor-cum-mini port is put under the GPA and dredged to 5.5 metre as its design allows, it could accommodate medium-sized ships and station bunker barges for refueling. The extra land at the fish harbor may be utilized for bonded warehouses, etc.

The best professionals with required expertise and know-how should be appointed for the management and administration of the mega seaport project and the services of best available professionals in their respective fields should also be hired.

To give its rightful place on the world map of ports, the master plan of Gwadar port prepared by the consultant, Arthur D. Little should be adopted.

The government must take step for International Ship and Port Security Code (ISPS) certification for Gwadar port. Since July 2004, the ISPS has been made mandatory by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for ISPS certification for all ports.

Gwadar should be declared a duty-free zone for a minimum period of 10 years to attract local and foreign investment. The special economic zones should be declared and developed on priority.

In order to attract major shipping lines of the world, port tariffs should be made attractive for the initial period of two years.

Ministry of petroleum should make special provisions for the supply of bunker fuel at duty-free price or private investor should be given special incentive or permission to supply bunkers to ships bound for the Gulf area. The rates should be competitive with those of Khor Fakkan and Fujariah.

The East Coast Expressway should be given priority so that transportation to and from the harbor is not hindered since the present route passes through the town and is likely to bring chaos, as the port has become operational. Construction of Gwadar-Ratodero and Gwadar-Khuzdar roads needs to be expedited to make the route shorter from Gwadar.