Nov 16 - 22, 2009

Pakistan's port city of Gwadar has a special significance with reference to its geography and potential for development of trade links with Central Asian Republics (CARs), Persian Gulf, East Africa, United Arab Emirates and North Western India. Gwadar by virtue of its important location and development projects is poised to turn into a city which will be comparable with cities like Singapore, Hong Kong, Colombo, and Dubai.

Gwadar seaport project has entered the second phase of development. The economic planners and decision-makers in Islamabad have been looking for different models popular among these models have been those of Dubai and Singapore, for the development of future port city of Gwadar in southern Balochistan.

Strategically located at the crossroads between East and West, Dubai has emerged as the leading hub between Europe and the Far East. The city is the acknowledged gateway to a market of an estimated 2 billion people in the Gulf countries, Arab world, and surrounding region. Dubai had for centuries been known as 'the city of merchants'. In the fifties and sixties, it became an increasingly busy trading post for the entire Gulf region. Although the late ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Rashid, had given orders for the creek to be dredged in the mid-sixties, he soon realized that to be a really successful commercial center, a deep-sea port was needed.

Gwadar is foreseen as the future Dubai of the subcontinent. Pakistan has declared Gwadar as a duty-free port and a free economic zone. This has not only enhanced its commercial worth manifold but has also accelerated the pace of development to an incredible extent. As a free trade zone and a corridor to CARs, Gwadar offers great economic opportunities to investors.

The government plans to develop the Gwadar port city on the pattern of Dubai. The prospects for the development of domestic and foreign tourism are very bright in Gwadar. With its charismatic and fascinating geography, Gwadar has great attraction for the tourists. Its tremendous tourism potential can be exploited by developing it on the lines of Dubai. For promotion of tourism, the government has already planned to establish hotels, motels, playground, boating club, theme parks, Marino and other recreation projects.

A plan for construction of a tourist complex at Gwadar port is under consideration of Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC). The tourist complex is likely to enhance the scope of tourism in the area. The lack of funds is the constraint in materializing the plan. Therefore, the government has welcomed the private sector to make investment for promotion of tourism in Gwadar.

The PTDC has already started work on development of the beaches in the country's southern zone. Plans are underway to invite the private sector for launching ferry service between Karachi and Gwadar and from Karachi to Bombay. This would be an added attraction both for the business community as well as intended tourists to step down on the virgin beaches of Gwadar.

Gwadar is an ideal place to emerge as attractive tourist destination for its beautiful pristine beaches, sea life, large open spaces and its proximity to the Gulf. The beaches in Gwadar area are the finest in the world, offering sunshine round the year. These beaches can be developed and exploited by the hotel and tourist industry. An exclusive self-sustaining tourism resort has been proposed for the foreign tourists on the west bay including a Mariano.

Dubai Ports Authority (DPA) is one of the leading transshipment centers in the world, serving more than 100 shipping lines. It is ranked 11th amongst the leading container ports of the world. DPA is known for its capability to provide a superior level of service to shipping lines in Dubai. The port has formed an international port management division that operates and manages container terminals and ports around the world. The division is enabling DPA's customers to experience the same high level of service that they have come to expect when their vessels call at Dubai.

The huge growth in many local sectors including tourism, commerce and construction positively reflected on more operation at Dubai Ports. DPA was very responsive to meet business changes and customers' growing needs through the announcement of its Master Development Plan.

There are projects in the DPA Master Plan which have been designed to meet the global standards and the challenges facing local and international shipping industry. DPA completed the development phase of berth 11 at Jebel Ali terminal and the expansion of its container yard to add 116,000 square meter. Around 120,000 square meter was added to berths 22 and 23.

Jebel Ali Free Zone has been created to attract the foreign businessman accustomed to certain levels of quality and efficiency. The zone is served by a modern infrastructure of excellent roads, water and power. It is the ideal warehousing and distribution hub for a market of some 2 billion people. Combining the services of the best port in the Middle East with an efficient and dynamic infrastructure, it offers a unique opportunity to do business in the Middle East.

The free zone and DPA are inextricably linked; they share a chairman and a strong relationship. The free zone has been built around the DPA's Jebel Ali terminal, enabling customers to take full advantage of the port's ISO-certified container and general cargo operations. Specialized unloading facilities and purpose-built storage such as the cool and cold stores are also at the disposal of free zone companies.

The free zone allows 100% foreign ownership of companies, as well as full repatriation of capital and profits. Office space is available for lease, as well as warehouses for storage, distribution and manufacturing. Land to build purpose-built facilities is also available.

As a tax free zone, Gwadar is likely to emerge as the future Dubai. The operationalization of Gwadar port has brightened prospects for lucrative business and profitable investment in the port city. The future port city of Gwadar will be connected to the whole of Pakistan through well-developed communication networks. The housing schemes and high-rise construction on commercial plots have been planned like those in Dubai, meeting the international standards.

It is an undeniable fact that it is not foreign investment and development schemes that can bring peace in Gwadar or Balochistan as a whole, but on the contrary it is peace and stability that can bring foreign investment and development projects to fruition in the port city of Gwadar. Ensuring peace and stability is the key to luring foreign investment. Dubai is the best example in the region where peace and stability has been the key to lure massive foreign investment.

It is because of peace and stability in Dubai that the head offices of a number of multinational companies are located there despite ongoing Iraq political crisis. For the past many years, Dubai's stock exchange has been showing a record performance. Islamabad must ensure security of foreign investors, businessmen and tourists in Gwadar. Government should take steps to provide a peaceful and stable environment for luring foreign investment in Balochistan.

Gwadar Port Authority (GPA) needs to be constituted, trained, and developed on the lines of DPA. The performance of GPA needs to be improved and it should conform to the standards that DPA is committed to uphold. The second phase of Gwadar port is yet to be completed. The matters pertaining to cargo handling and other related operations at Gwadar port will require efficient support systems like those in Dubai.