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Gwadar, the future economic hub

Gwadar, “The Future of Pakistan”, is a Balochi word which means “Door of Wind”. However, looking into the future, it can be referred to as the “Door of Prosperity Wind”. Let this wind dry the sweat of people who have worked hard and may this wind turn into a fragrance of prosperity for every home and individual working at Gwadar or living in Pakistan. Gwadar has geo-strategic significance due to many reasons. It is on the conduit of three most commercially important regions of the world. The oil rich Middle East, Central Asia bestowed with natural resources and South Asia having the potential for growth, for this century.

Gwadar has attained an international stature sooner than the expectations of many analysts. The fishing village mindset needs to be tuned to shifting paradigms of the geo strategic epicenter of emerging trade horizon. The new economic epicenter now revolves round and around Gwadar. The epicenter has all the natural pulls and potential of converting the “Dream into Reality”. Those who have a vision and an interest, sitting at a far distance, understand the potential of Gwadar far better than us sitting close to it – an unfortunate dilemma. Those who have clung to the mindset of a fishing village, and do not appreciate the dynamics of a changing world and ground realities, are unfortunate for themselves and for the country.

Let this mindset be infused with reality oriented information, and focus their attention on Gwadar’s economic prospects in the future. It is my firm belief that via Gwadar we can take Pakistan to far greater heights, provided we exploit its potential, build it in a planned way and attract potential Pakistani and foreigner investors. Pakistan has neither a dearth of human resources nor lack of geo-economic, geo-political or, geo-strategic potential. Where, perhaps, we lack is in the realm of will and the sincerity of purpose to actualise our stated goals. Therefore, to achieve our high-priority national aims and objectives, we shall need to evolve a strategy that would essentially entail hiring, harmonising and fruitfully utilising the services and expertise of both national and international experts and concerned people within the country.

Potential

Gwadar has enormous potential from all angles and dimensions, whether it is business, trade, manufacturing, storage or any kind of business activity, whether known today or emerging with the help of ever developing technology. Merely the construction of Deep Sea Port will not serve the purpose till we explore all the potential of Gwadar, which we know but are not encashing. In short any type of business activity is possible here due to many obvious reasons “Imagination is the limit”.

Deep Sea Port: The definition of a deep sea port is that the mother ship comes directly at the port and is unloaded. Presently the depth is 14.5 m but ultimately it will be increased. As per the vision envisaged for Gwadar port development, 88 mother ships will anchor at a time by 2050. The port is equipped with essential port handling equipment and required infrastructure for smooth port operation. In phase-I (completed), 3 berths of the port is handling up to 25,000 to 30,000 DWT containers vessels and bulk carriers respectively. In phase-II, it will have nine additional berths.

(i) Four container berths.
(ii) One bulk cargo terminal (to handle 100,000 DWT ships).
(iii) One Grain terminal.
(iv) One Ro-Ro Terminal.
(v) Two oil terminals (to handle 200,000 DWT ships).

Geographical Location: In comparison to Gulf ports, especially Dubai, it gives more facilities and will handle more cargo and trade because Gwadar is a deep sea port, and is located at the mouth of the Gulf and is a gateway to Central Asian Republics (CARs) / Western China. For Dubai, ships have to wait for days for the route clearance due to Strait of Hormuz, where only a few ships can cross at a time. As far as the Iranian Ports (Chah Bahar & Bandar Abbas) are concerned, they will not be able to attract and generate business while the Iranian state remains hostile to major western powers. Moreover, these ports are in creeks and require colossal maintenance cost, which from a business point of view, is not so attractive.

Transit Trade: The land locked Central Asian States are dependent on Gwadar. Similarly Western China and North Western India shall have a short route to the world market through Gwadar. Presently Transit Trade facilities are provided to Afghanistan (from Karachi) and the same can be extended to CARs from Gwadar. The location of Gwadar Deep Sea Port is such that the whole world business converges and diverges at this place. In comparison, Dubai lacks all this.

Trans-shipment: The whole region, indeed the whole world can take advantage of trans-shipment facility. The transit cargo (liquid and dry both) can easily be undertaken from Gwadar and transported to any part of the world in a short span of time, in comparison to other ports. Imagine a ship carrying 5,000 – 8,000 containers, the enormity of warehousing, transportation and manpower required to handle all this. For trans-shipment we have to give facilities as provided by the Dubai government to the investors. In the list of the world’s busiest trans-shipment port, Dubai is at number eight and handling (TEU 000) 322,050 annually on which no country is dependent, is 700 km ahead of us and has to pass through Strait of Hormuz. It is high time to realise the importance of Gwadar and “we must start trans-shipment” as it does not require road infrastructure and other extra expenditure.

Warehousing/Container Yards: Due to trans-shipment there will be a lot of requirement of warehousing and container yards. All consignment/cargo has to be unloaded and kept in warehouses before shipment. Similarly all cargo/consignment unloaded from ships has to be stored in warehouses/container yards and then transported to their final destination. Being a deep sea port on the main shipping route, it will facilitate the movement of cargo. There will be a major requirement of warehouses, both open as well as bounded.

Transport: The movement of containers / cargo to and from the up countries will either be done through railway or heavy transport. The rail network should be laid by the government. There is a dire need for a modern railway network as the existing rail networks is of old vintage and will not be able to sustain new load volume. For heavy road transport the private sector will be involved. The transport industry will have to import all kind of vehicles and especially heavy vehicles for fast delivering of goods at the far destination as well as in the city limits. Transportation of goods through air also stands a chance due to long distances, and for urgent deliveries, thus an international airport is required.

Trade & Business / Import & Export: The trade and business of all kinds and quantity, starting from a needle till ships, will flourish, irrespective of the cost. Import and export of all items and magnitude is possible, because the means of transportation like sea/road/rail (being developed) are available and linked with all important countries and trade routes. Gwadar shall be the “Meeting Point” for sellers and buyers, rich and poor, haves and have nots, and so on.

Manufacturing Industries: Being a deep sea port and with facilities for transportation available, the industry of any kind is feasible, both from raw material as well as finished material point of view. The mineral resources of Central Asia have no shorter route to get transported and to reach world markets, than Gwadar. The developed world cannot reap these benefits except through Gwadar. Invariably what may happen, it is a natural phenomenon that industry develops at all ports due to availability of all kinds of facilities.

Gas/Oil Refinery and Petro Chemicals: Gwadar Port should be termed as an energy port. The gas and oil deposits of CARs will find their new storage destination at Gwadar, because of its natural flow direction. Even Iran can benefit from Gwadar by securing an opening to the world market for gas and oil. The Pacific countries, India and other countries short of energy can easily be supplied Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) from Gwadar. There will be a need for an oil refinery rather an “Oil City” to cater for all these. China has to pump Iranian gas through National Trade Corridor (NTC). Similarly the Middle Eastern oil will also be pumped to China, being cheap in terms of distance and time, through NTC.

Fisheries: Presently fishery is one of the most important economic activities in Gwadar district, in which a vast majority of the population is engaged. The district has a 600 kilometers long coast line which provides the residents not only a means of income, but also food to subsist. About one fourth of the total catch of different varieties in Pakistan is produced in Gwadar. At present there are two jetties (Gwadar and Pasni) in the district.

Till today fishing is a family skill. The skill is transferred from father to son. There is a need for training on modern fishing techniques. On an annual basis there is potential for an additional catch of at least 70,000 tonnes. Fish processing at Gwadar is providing employment to many of the local educated and uneducated unemployed youth. In case fish farming and shrimp farming are encouraged, it can double the quantity, besides improving the quality.

Tourism: The landscape of district Gwadar is unique in itself. The mud hillock, the God gifted landscape looks as if carved by an artist. The two hammer heads of Gwadar and Ormara are matchless. The turquoise sea water with golden sand beaches facing south, is unparalleled. The beaches can be used throughout the year. The tourism ministry has yet to realise the beauty and potential of tourism, of the area. They must be encouraged and pushed to market the area initially for locals and ultimately for foreigners. Across the sea, Dubai is attracting six millions tourists each year, whereas we have yet to start tourism. We should try to encourage and attract these tourists, as tourists from far flung countries would like to see another adjacent country, spending a meager amount by air or by ferry service. In case we are not able to attract international tourists, we can have domestic tourism in the initial stage. Being a new city and having virgin beaches, everybody would like to visit it once.

Real Estate: The foremost thing in any kind of business activity is real estate. God will not increase the size of the earth; rather due to population explosion land is shrinking. Thus the value of real estate will increase. On top of that if some business or trade activity is generated, the value of the real estate further escalates – a universal phenomenon.

Construction: Presently Gwadar has no building or accommodation to accommodate the human influx and store the bulk supplies of any kind. The construction industry has so much potential that one has to start from the making of bricks, till the construction of high rises, for which there is no limit, “Sky is the limit”.

Job opportunities: The Gwadar project can provide job to thousands of people of the country in a short span of time, as everything new has to be developed and there will be a large requirement of human resource i.e. from labourers till the executive class. Developing new projects in the country has far reaching benefits in comparison to loans and outside jobs – begging for each and every penny and job.

Economic Significance of Gwadar

Presently Gwadar is a fishermen’s town, having a population of fifty thousand people. Gwadar is connected through a coastal highway, approximately 600 Km long, with Karachi. The travelling time is 7 – 10 hours depending on mode of transportation. The master plan of the city has been prepared (Annex A). Necessary road networks have been completed. The area west of Jinnah Avenue has been earmarked for residential and area towards east for commercial / industrial. For Export Processing Zone (EPZ) 46,000 acres of land has been earmarked on the eastern side with 10 years Tax Holiday.

Future Trade Forecast: The envisaged trade forecast of Gwadar port in early 2000, from western China, Central Asian Republics and Afghanistan, is as shown in the tables.

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