Pakistan’s government, for years, has made several attempts of transforming the strategically located fishing port of Gwadar (Balochistan province) with a duty-free port and free economic zone. But, as a result of inadequate cargo handling activity at the Gwadar port and inefficient use of the port for transporting cargo to Afghanistan, the port authorities are sensing a probable crisis in the near future.
Because of the slow construction of Gwadar Free Trade Zone, there is insufficient pick up in export and import volume at port terminals. This was reason enough for COSCO, the Chinese shipping giant, to terminate its liner services between Karachi and Gwadar. COSCO’s decision was further fuelled by insufficient functioning of Gwadar customs, high inland shipping cost and non-acceptance of transit items by the Karachi Port.
According to a source, “The inadequate policies and measures in Pakistan had seriously impacted market development and yield of COSCO’s Gwadar service. The lack of economic feasibility has forced COSCO to quit Gwadar service.”
China Overseas Port Holding Corporation’s (COPHC) subsidy Port operator Gwadar International Terminal Limited also expressed disappointment to Pakistani federal authorities over the recent developments.
The Karachi-Gwadar service, the first liner service at Gwadar Port, was launched to target the untapped market of coastal trade between sea-ports in Pakistan, apart from eyeing Afghanistan transit trade. However, India is helping in the expansion and management of Chabhar port of Iran, which has emerged as the gateway to landlocked Afghanistan.
COPHC has told Pakistan authorities that it would be impossible to start a new liner service within Pakistani ports.
“Pakistan must develop the port as an alternative to the Strait of Hormuz by constructing oil storage and fueling facilities,” Captain Anwar Shah, a former Chairman of the Gawadar Port Authority, Port Qasim and Karachi Port Trust told a media outlet.
With inputs from The Economic Times