PORTS OF PAKISTAN:
Sitting at the door of the Oil-rich Persian Gulf and the strategic Gulf of Oman, Gwadar is Pakistan’s alternate economic, military and strategic base to the already saturated Karachi and Bin Qasim ports, as well as an efficient alternative to the Iranian port of Chah Bahar – a port designed to capture the lucrative Central Asian trade corridor. An obscure fishing village a few years back, Gwadar [population: 50,000-100,000] warm-water port’s inaugural by the Chinese Vice-Premier Wu Bangguo on March 22, 2002 marked its entrance into the list of the world’s most important economic and strategic locations in a big way. Luckily, for its strategic location, Gwadar has not only been a blue-eyed boy for Pakistan’s economic planners, its navy, the Chinese Zingkiang province, the Central Asian Republics and a list of Middle Eastern Oil consumers, but also an eyesore to its archrivals. The port, whose first phase has been completed awaiting inauguration, will not only meet the economic purposes of the entire region, it will also host as a major naval base for Pakistan’s Navy, and a visiting port for many regional navies. Pakistan Navy already considers Gwadar as its third naval port, and is interested to construct a huge base with advanced support and repair facilities. Ranked by the government as a “Sensitive Defense Zone”, the port will also rank amongst the world’s largest deep-sea ports.
Gwadar, even though it’s a new mega-port, has been important trade route throughout the history of Makran region. In the late eighteenth century, Nasir Khan I of Ahmadzai family of Kalat granted the port of Gwadar to Sultan bin Ahmad [1792-1804] of Al Bu-Sa’id tribe of Oman. Sultan’s deputy was ordered to construct an important fort to safeguard the Gwadar bay. Gwadar remained an Omani possession after independence of Pakistan, until Hajji Muhammad Iqbal Baluch and Liaqat Ali Khan asked for the annexation of Gwadar to Pakistan because of its vital Geo-strategic importance. As a result, Gwadar was repurchased from the Sultan of Oman, and it became the part of Baluchistan Province of Pakistan on September 8th, 1957. Since then, the port remained an insignificant fishing village, till in 1997 when it suddenly gained world-wide attention as an alternate to Hong Kong after its annexation to the Communist China. Even though the plan didn’t succeed, Gwadar became a subject of interest for the newly established Central Asian Republics for trans-Afghanistan trade, as well as China to connect its Zingkiang province by a port. With the increasing prices of Oil/Gas and the ever-increasing Middle Eastern political turmoil, the world community started looking towards the Central Asia as an alternate to the Arab oil, making Gwadar hot spot once again as a port of choice right outside the troubled Middle East. With the American invasion of Afghanistan, the Chinese interest in Gwadar increased as the port will enable China to diversify its crude oil import routes and extend its military and political presence in the Indian Ocean.
For its part, Pakistan is constructing a major network of highways and railways to connect Gwadar with Karachi, Punjab, China, Central Asia and Iran. This connectivity will give Gwadar an edge over all the major seaports of the region, including its archrivals. The main port construction is being carried out by China Harbor Engineering Corporation (CHEC). The first phase of the port PC-I is complete and includes 3 Multipurpose Berths [length 602 m], a 4.5 Km long Approach Channel dredged to 11.5-12.5m, Turning Basin [450 m], one 100m Service Berth, and related port infrastructure, equipment, boats, Tugs and Service Vessels. This first phase will be able to handle Bulk Carriers of up to 30,000 DWT and Container Vessels of 25,000 DWT. The port would be in full functionality after the completion of additional dredging of the channel to 14.5 m by a Chinese company, making it the deepest port of Pakistan and trans-shipment port for the region. The Phase-II of the project is to be completed on BOO/BOT basis and will include 4 Container Berths, 1 Bulk Cargo Terminal [to handle 100,000 DWT ships], 1 Grain Terminal, 1 roll-on/roll-off terminal, 2 Oil Terminals to handle 200,000 DWT ships, and other major port facilities. A national artery of 700km, Makran Coastal Highway is now completed and provides all-weather connectivity between Karachi and the ports of Baluchistan, including the Gwadar Port. The road is now being extended to the Pak-Iran border, from where it would be connected to its archrivals Chah Bahar and Bandar Abbas. Gwadar is also being connected to Punjab through the motorway system, connecting Gwadar with Peshawar-bound Indus Highway, Lahore-bound M2, Faisalabad-bound M3 and Multan-bound M4. The under-construction Gwadar-Saindak highway will provide the shortest route for the Central Asian Republics to the warm-waters. Moreover, feasibility studies on connecting Gwadar with Kandahar [through Quetta/Chamman route] and Saindak/Zahedan through Turbat are in advanced stages. Civil Aviation Authority has approved in principle to construct a modern International airport to connect Gwadar with the rest of the world by air. The government has indicated to keep the Open Sky policy for Gwadar’s airspace, while the deep-sea port is destined to become a Tree-Trade Zone of Pakistan.
Metropolitan Karachi is one of the world’s biggest cities, with population exceeding 12,000,000 people. It’s the jewel of Pakistan handling more than 90% of its foreign trade, and is home to Pakistan Navy. Karachi Port handles over 60% of the foreign trade through Karachi, while 40% is conducted through the neighboring Bin Qasim port. The port facility is as old as the city that hosts it. Many ancient ports are said to have been existed on the location, including Krokola, Morontobara, Barbarikon and Debal. The Arab traders wrote about the port of Karachi at Umdah as far back as in 1511 CE. On being at the mouth of the Indus Basin, Karachi served historically as a major trading post for the North India even before the partition. To transport cotton and wheat down to Karachi through the Indus River, The Indus Steam Flotilla and the Orient Inland Steam Navigation Companies were created by the British. The main navigation channel was dredged in 1854 and the causeway was constructed to link it to the rest of the city, formally making Karachi a major seaport of the British India. Later on, Manora breakwater, Kiamari Groyne, Napier Mole Bridge and Native Jetty was built by the British to create better trading facility on the Karachi port. In 1882, the construction work of the wharves was started on Karachi port. East Wharf and Napier Mole Boat Wharf were completed in 1914; while between 1927 and 1944, West Wharf, Lighterage berths and ship repair berths were completed. 1861 saw Sindh Railway line connecting Karachi to the upper Sindh and Punjab, making it a regional trading hub for the British Empire. The port remained the front post for the British Navy during the World War I and World War II, when it became the stopping point for the ships coming from Suez Canal and the only access to the Russian Empire. Post independence Pakistan chose Karachi as its capital, making its port even more prominent amongst the world’s ports. Today, Karachi port is the second most important port in the Arabian Sea, after Mumbai.
Karachi Port is witnessing a rapid expansion in facilities, as the port prepares to dredge its channel to 13.5 m. The Kiamari Groyne will be dredged to 16.6 m, to enable 300m long vessels to dock at the port. A trans-shipment terminal is being planned at the Kiamari Groyne, decreasing the turn around time for bigger vessels. The handling capacity of the port is being increased from 300,000 TEU to 400,000 TEU, while 2 new berths [14m] and a 100,000 square meters terminal stacking area have been designed. On the East Wharf, a bulk cargo terminal is also planned, and a 100-acre cargo village to handle such cargo is being designed. Long term plans include construction of a 13,000 homes Port Town and a 1947 feet tall Port Tower Complex. KPT is working on connecting its modern oil berths to the PAPCO White Oil pipeline, taking Pakistan’s imported oil to Punjab. At present, PAPCO White Oil pipeline is connected to FOTCO oil berth at Port Qasim, while KPT plans to link its oil terminal to Zulfiqarabad Oil Terminal, Bossicor Refinery and PAPCO pipeline. Other newer generation berths at 16m depth are being planned by KPT making it capable of handling the fourth and fifth generation ships. A cargo village on 100 acres has been planned by KPT, which will be linked to the M-10 motorway and Layari Expressway. KPT is also producing a new Dredger with 6000 hopper capacity, 2 hopper barges, 2 harbor tugs, 2 water barges, an anchor hoist vessel and 2 pilot boats. A huge desalination plant of 100,000 to 500,000 GPD capacities is being designed to cater the needs of fresh water at the port. A foot street at the abandoned Native Jetty Bridge is being established by the KPT to utilize the bridge for recreational purposes by the people of Karachi. All the operations of the port are now being computerized, while modern office and residential facilities are being constructed for the KPT employees. An Interactive Voice Response System will facilitate the port users a 24-hour service of delivery information at the Karachi Port. A world-class real estate project called Karachi Port Club is also being offered to the private sector to enhance the recreational facilities at the port. Port Fountain Jet, world’s second highest fountain jet at 620 feet has been inaugurated at the Karachi harbor at Oyster Rock.
Developed primarily as a naval port, Ormara is strategically located between Karachi and Gwadar. Being 240 Km away from the saturated Karachi harbor, Pakistan navy has constructed this facility as Jinnah Naval Base. The town itself is small with only 40,000 inhabitants, but is served by an airport because of the importance of the city. Ormara is an ancient town that hosted Alexander the Great on his return from his expedition to India. Ormara was named after one of Alexander’s generals “Ormoz”, after he died in that area. The selection of the naval base was commenced in 1990 and the contract was awarded to the Turkish company STFA. Jan de Nul of Belgium was awarded the contract for the offshore and land development in December 1992.
The Ormara base has an approach channel of 3.5 Km and is operational since 1997. The facility provides repair, maintenance, fuel and logistics to visiting PN Ships and Submarines. On the highest ground of Ormara Hammer Heat at 1575 feet is the PNS Ahsan; a coastal radar station for the marine surveillance. In 1988, coastal Naval Air Station was commissioned at Ormara called PNS Makran. Third level repair and maintenance facilities are being commenced at the Ormara Port. The port has been connected to both Karachi and Gwadar through the Coastal Highway. The development of Ormara as a Naval base will give Pakistan Navy much needed strategic depth against its enemy, as it will not allow PN to be bottled up in the Karachi harbor.
Jiwani can be considered Pakistan’s most strategically located town for a naval presence, close to Iranian border and at the mouth of the Gulf of Oman. As a spillover of the development of Gwadar port 80Km to the East, Jiwani is likely to be developed as either a naval post or a Gwadar port extension. The town already hosts a small naval base and an airport with 5500 feet runway. Its indigenous population is very small at 25,000 but is a fishing port for the local population. The area is rich in mangrove forest that extends across Pakistan’s international border.
Historically, Keti Bandar was one of the richest ports of the region. It is located in Thatta district in southern Sindh, and is home to a small fishing community. The port as a regional trading post was abandoned in 1935, and the sea erosion has wiped out much signs of economic activity. Dibla tribe is settled at this town, which gives some credibility to the local claims that the town was actually the Debal of Muhammad Bin Qasim, who conquered Sindh through there. Today’s town of Keti Bandar is located 160Km south east of Karachi.
BIN QASIM PORT:
Bin Qasim is Karachi’s second port, located 50Km from Karachi city center and 15 Km from the National Highway. The port is constructed on a 12000 acre area and has a 45 km long navigational channel. A 14 km long railway link connects Bin Qasim from the national railway network. A large chunk of land has been allocated for the development of the Textile City at the port’s land, which will generate much economic activity at port once completed.
Port Qasim hosts facilities in both public and private sectors. An Iron Ore and Coal berth was commissioned in 1980 and is dedicated to handling Iron, Coal and Manganese for Pakistan Steel Mills. It is a 279 m long berth, and is equipped with two grab un-loaders with 700 tons per hour handling capacity. It can host vessels of 55000 tons, and is connected to Pakistan Steel Stockyard by a 4.5 Km long conveyer. The berth can handle up to 3.36 million tons per annum of cargo. Berth 1 having a capacity of 2.5 million tons can handle vessels of 25000 DWT carrying edible oil, chemical and molasses. Berth 2, 3 & 4 having capacity of 6 million tons can handle vessels of 35000 DWT carrying break bulk and general cargo. Two 10,000 sq.m transit sheds service these berths as well. FACTO oil terminal, a private sector state-of-the-art environmental friendly oil terminal, was established in 1995 and is capable of handling 9 million tons of furnace oil per year from 75000 DWT vessels. A 4 Km trestle connects this jetty with the shore oil pipeline network. Terminal 5, 6 & 7 of Bin Qasim port are now Qasim International Container Terminal, a privately established BOO project started in 1997 and capacity of 0.36 million TEU capable of handling 45,000 DWT vessels. A private sector integrated bulk liquid comical terminal, called Engro Vopak Chemical Terminal, was constructed in 1998 and has a capacity of 4 million tons of cargo from vessels up to 75,000 DWT. A 1.1 Km trestle connects the facility to a 2 acre tank farm alongside the port facility. Port Qasim is connected to the national Railway network through its own railway station, capable of loading 4 trains at a time behind the backup area of the berths. The port also has jetty service, floating crafts, transit sheds, cargo handling equipment, buoys, transit lights, beacons, and a light house. In competition with KPT, PQA has an elaborate expansion plan, that is spread over years, and is destined to make PQA Karachi’s prime private sector port. A 300 acre land in the Eastern Industrial Zone has been allocated by the PQA for the overseas Pakistanis as Al-Watan Industrial Zone. An efficient liquid cargo terminal, an LPG terminal, a second Container Terminal, a Grain & Fertilizer Terminal and establishment of Desalination plants are being considered for the expansion of the PQA project. Moreover, deepening of the channel and computerization of the Port activity is also underway.
A small fishing port in Baluchistan, Pasni is a historic town of Gwadar district located strategically between Gwadar Port and Ormara Naval Base. The port’s facilities and its airbase were extensively used by the United States and the Allied forces during the Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Pasni and its airbase is one of the oldest facilities in the region and were used extensively by the Allied forces during the World War II.
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