ISLAMABAD: Minister for Ports and Shipping Kamran Michael said that forceful encroachment by different corrupt groups at Port Qasim is a matter of great concern and an Anti-Encroachment Cell has been set up to halt this illegal practice at the earliest. The cell was not fully functional before but we have now made it a powerful authority to deal with these groups effectively.
In an exclusive interview with Customs Today, Kamran Michael said that the last government had undergone an international treaty with China to develop Gwadar Port and we have to continue with the agreement. As per the agreement, China has the legal right to work in Gwadar for 40 years. This is actually an operational agreement but the writ and the property rights will remain with Pakistan. Under this agreement, China will need warehouses to develop a textile city, an industrial zone and an oil city in Gwadar. There will be a refinery as well and more refineries are needed to build throughout the country.
For the dredging at Gwadar Port, the government has allocated Rs.1 billion in order to accommodate bigger vessels and continue maintenance of the port, Michael said and added, “We are also pushing China to market the port internationally and fetch considerable business for making Gwadar Port a success. We will invite all the neighboring countries as well to utilize the port.” “The government of Holland has assured us help in building Gwadar Fish Harbour on modern lines – they will also provide fiber fishing boats,” he added.
He stressed that government jobs from grade 1-15 should be given to Baloch people and the chairman of the port should also belong to the province. He has recommended three names for the post from Balochistan to the Prime Minister. He said that Gwadar Port is practically functional and till now 221 sea marines are deployed there to handle import of wheat and urea. Infrastructure for 4 berths is finalized and 5 more berths will become functional very soon.
He said that underdeveloped road infrastructure is the major problem in Gwadar, as soon as roads are developed the port will start showing 100% results and enhance the trade in the region. China Planning Division in collaboration with Pakistan Planning Ministry is working on it and they will establish a network of all important roads and link roads in the area. The government is keen to connect Gwadar to Kashgar and in this regard, Rs.31 billion have been reserved.
Answering to a question, he said, “In Sindh the previous government completed 60% work on Deep Water Container Port at Keamari, Karachi and now this is our duty to complete the remaining project and we will eliminate the defects of the project. We manage 97% of the total trade through Karachi ports and out of that 40% portion is of Karachi alone. Thirteen meters deep sea provides space to only 1,000 tons of container ships at Karachi ports but we are trying to develop a 17 meters deep water port at Keamari so that 2,000 tons of container ship can easily board in the sea.
He said that Pakistan National Shipping Corporation was in tatters when he took charge as Ports and Shipping Minister. There were only 3 oil tankers and 7 bulk ships but we are buying 4 new oil tankers and 15 more bulk ships. He said, “We have to buy 74 charter ships because we are paying heavy rent in dollars. We are in contact with an international company of Athens to buy charter ships and oil tankers. They will be providing 18 oil tankers and 22 bulk ships on immediate basis. The revenue generated by 4 of these ships will be given to the company as installment.”
Kamran Michael said that the Ports & Shipping Sector in Pakistan has huge potential and all efforts are being put down to resolve all the problems to generate revenue from it. To enhance exports, we have developed a textile city covering area of 1320 acres at Port Qasim. We are also looking forward to install a 600MW coal plant at Port Qasim with assistance of international companies and this will be completed in 2 years period. He said with completion of this project it is hoped Pakistani businessmen will return back to the country.
Replying another question, he said that the government will provide complete security to the domestic and foreign investors. Security at ports has already been enhanced and we are also deputing marine soldiers at ports. In addition, Pakistan is also going to sign an MoU with Sri Lanka soon after which Sri Lanka will start using our tankers for oil trade.
He said that unfortunately ship-breaking industry at Gadani is completely shattered. There was a time when Pakistan’s ship-breaking industry was on top of the list in the region but now it is led by Bangladesh, he concluded.