KARACHI: The Gwadar Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) has urged the federal government to divert the Afghan Transit Trade (ATT) cargo handling to Gwadar port on permanent basis and initiate ferry service for intending pilgrims to Iran. GCCI President Mir Naveed Kalmati at a news briefing here on Tuesday said that the only way to counter insurgency in Balochistan was to provide jobs to the youth and create economic activity of permanent nature.

He further demanded that trade with Iran should also be allowed, which will not only encourage two-way trade through official channels but also discourage smuggling which is causing huge revenue losses.

He said the federal government should have diverted all cargo meant for allied forces in Afghanistan to Gwadar port from the day one as this would have not only helped to make the port operational but western nations’ assistance for developing road network should have also been sought.

“If a ferry service is initiated from Gwadar port for intending pilgrims to holy places in Iran it will not only reduce travelling cost but also the distance because within two hours pilgrims will reach Chabahar port in Iran,” Kalamti explained.

He said annually around 0.4 to 0.5 million pilgrims go to Iran from Pakistan and this would help generate permanent nature of commercial activity in Gwadar in particular and district Makran as a whole.

He referred to recent imports of around 722,000 tons of urea by the government and was handled at the Gwadar port. In total, he said 18 ships loaded with urea were handled in a record period of 40 days without paying a single penny towards demurrage. Never in the past huge quantum of any bulk commodity had been handled without paying millions in
demurrage because ships had to wait for weeks at outer anchorage for berthing turn.

Mr Kalmati said urea handling activity at Gwadar port created diverse economic activities starting from providing clearing and shipping services to unloading, trucking, transportation and other allied services to the workforce engaged in entire operation and movement of urea.

In short, he said many locals got involved in various trades and services because on an average 19,100 tons urea were daily unloaded from ships and around 15,000 to 16,000 tons were transported from the port area to Karachi through the Coastal Highway.

He said that it was highly encouraging that around 35 per cent of transport involved in urea haulage was owned by locals and remaining 65 per cent by people from other provinces.

Since the port had been creating job opportunities the law and order situation in the district Makran was far better than other districts of the province.