Gwadar Port waits for ships.
The developers of Gwadar Port had perceived it to be the future of Pakistan"s economy. Gwadar is yet to shine despite all the potential of becoming a major port in the region. The strategically important port helplessly waits for cargo ships while government seems indifferent even after inheriting the gift of Makran Coastal Highway from Musharraf government that links Karachi to Gwadar.
Local people say that Gwadar has seen a positive socio-economic change after the construction of coastal highway that has reduced three days journey to eight hours for reaching Karachi, the commercial hub of the country. Access to the big city has brought numerous bounties to the people of Gwadar district.
Gwadar Port was made with an investment of Rs17.2 billion ($288 million) with Chinese assistance of more than $220 million and over $66 million from Pakistan. Present government is still indecisive as to how to plan and exploit the immense potential of this port.
Ghulam Farooq, Director General, Gwadar Port Authority (GPA) said Gwadar Port will not be fully operational unless and until industrialisation takes place in Gwadar district.
?Cargo ships want to return with some cargo. Why will a cargo ship come to Gwadar Port when it has nothing to take back?? he said while talking to media persons at a local hotel in Gwadar.
Abdul Razik Durrani, DG operations of GPA said the port was increasing its capacity to turn into a hub port with all the facilities. ?For instance here we have service berth that we do not have even at Karachi Port and Port Qasim, a RORO facility, which is used in importing vehicles and other machinery, fire fighting equipment, oil pollution equipment with an oil tank of 50,000 gallon capacity.?
Durrani added that two fish harbours were also under construction - one in Pishugaan and the other in Surbandar. Fish industry is one of the largest industries of Gwadar, he said, ?we have cold storage system where fish processing and packing is done while a huge quantity of fish goes to Karachi for export to different countries.?
A coastline of 17.5 km is available to Gwadar Port where container terminals would be made. The master plan of Gwadar Port has LPG and LNG terminals that will be given to private companies on build, operate and transfer (BOT) basis, he said.
The first ship offloaded 63,000 MT of wheat at Gwadar Port in March 2008 and from then only Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) has imported commodities through Gwadar Port showing the extent of limited ships.
He said TCP decision of importing commodities from Gwadar instead of Karachi Port was right because the cost was same at both ports. Calculations reveal that the imports through Gwadar were not expensive if compared to Karachi Port and Port Qasim, for demurrages and other charges owing to heavy sea traffic at Karachi levels the cost of imports, he added.
When asked why two ships have ran aground at Gwadar Port, he replied, international laws say that any damage in case of incident to the ship is the responsibility of captain whether it touches jetty or runs aground.
The Port of Singapore Authority (PSA) the operator of Gwadar Port handles millions of containers around the world making it easier for them to develop this port according to the schedule plan, Durrani said.
PSA has much more important role to play than just the port operations, for instance bringing business, setting up container terminal, making it a proper and viable port is the responsibility of PSA, he said.
With the import of TCP commodities various employment opportunities emerged like truck drivers and other lifters that increase the hopes of local people that they will get more employment as the port operations grow. ?With the increase in port operations, local people will get more employment and their grievances will certainly start decreasing,? he said.
?Private businessmen at Gwadar Port will certainly employ local people. Why would they bring labour for Rs500 per day when the local labour is available for Rs200 a day? How they can prefer to bring costly labour from Karachi or Quetta when they get trained local people in Gwadar? He asked and rebuffs the reservations of local people who think that they will be marginalized in employment opportunities.
Obviously, local people have the right and we would ensure that local people get training on priority basis, he added.
On the availability of water and electricity in Gwadar, he said electricity load shedding in Gwadar was same as we see in other parts of country while Gwadar Development Authority (GDA) was looking for desalination plant and electricity generation on its own.