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KARACHI: With its existing limited operational facility, the natural deep seaport of Gwadar is handling up to 50 cargo vessels on an annual basis, showing bright prospects of being the major economic hub in the region.

This was stated by the Chairman of the Gwadar Port Authority (GPA), Naseer Khan Kashani, while talking at the port to a group of visiting journalists from Karachi.

He said that transit trade had been started with landlocked Afghanistan, while some Central Asian republics had also shown their interest in this regard.

“Considering the transit trade scope, we are planning to establish a dedicated terminal to ensure country-wise facilities at the port,” Kashani said. Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are keen to set up industrial units in Gwadar, he said. He said Gwadar would enhance trade and commercial ties with other countries.

He said the Gwadar port has great economic and commercial significance not only for Pakistan and China but for the entire region.

“The port has a unique feature which is its expansion capacity of 100 berths.”

Currently with only three berths, the port is operational at only 3 percent of its total operational capacity. Two ships each carrying 50,000 tons are loaded at a time.

“We have expansion plan to add more berths to mitigate the growing demand of cargo handling and commercial trade in a couple of years,” he said.

While giving detailed background of the port, he said that from 2007 to 2012, Gwadar port remained under Port Singapore Authority (PSA).

In 2013, its 100 percent rights were transferred to the China Overseas Port Holding Company (COPHC).

From March 7, 2018, ships are calling on on a regular basis, and the port has become operational in real sense. Port activities are not limited to the state cargo, but general cargo, transit trade, LPG vessels etc.

In the last two years, he said the regulatory framework has been completed with the assistance of maritime affairs ministry. But unfortunately the coronavirus hit the country in 2020, and the year was tough for the port activities as well. Despite global grim circumstances, we had cargo, LPG vessels, and transit trade intact at the port.

“Now our focus is on attracting investment particularly in the tax-free zone, which is important for economic and commercial activities,” he said.

To a query he said some 43 state-owned companies are registered in Gwadar.

There have been some missing links and connectivity issues which need to be resolved. However, around 80 percent of construction work of East-Bay Expressway, Gwadar Port, has been completed, and that will help resolve the transit issues.

The stakeholders are synergized and conducting regular meetings on Gwadar modalities under which rail, road and air connectivity, logistics and storage facilities are being discussed. Employee Induction from BPs-1 to 16 is supposed to be from Gwadar. Presently, around 90 percent of the employees in port are locals, he said.

The MD of Star Marketing, Mehmood Ahmad Khan, who organized the two-day visit, told the reporters that a set of development projects were underway, and the prospect of Gwadar was bright.

“Gwadar CPEC Warehouses” and “Gwadar Commercial Zone” had been launched to establish cargo storage facilities and development of office buildings, hotels, markets, etc. at prime locations adjacent to the new Gwadar International Airport, he said.

Mehmood said his company had been marketing the two projects for the last two years, and investors were showing keen interest. He said the Director-General of the Gwadar Development Authority (GDA), Shahzeb Khan Kakar, had also vowed to support the investors to make Gwadar an economic and trade hub in the region.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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