KARACHI: Gwadar Port, built with Chinese help and close to Iran, will change trading links with Afghanistan and Central Asia, the official heading the project said on Wednesday. To be formally opened in the next few months, the $248 million project was completed this month, 12 weeks ahead of schedule, said Akbarali A Pesnani, Chairman of Gwadar Port.

He said Gwadar was looking to handle transshipment traffic for the Gulf and ports on the Arabian Peninsula.

“We aim to compete with the regional ports of Oman, Dubai and Iran for transhipment business. The competition is already on the ground, we have to create our niche,” Pesnani said in an interview.

“A number of regional port operators and shipping companies including from China, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf have shown interest in doing business from here,” said Pesnani, a native Baloch from Gwadar who has also worked in the United States.

A dredging project should be completed early next year to allow in bigger ships. China provided $198 million for the project in grants, soft loans and credits, while the government pitched in $50 million.

The project has already attracted other investments to the area, with national newspapers advertising seafront condominiums in Gwadar as if the fishing town of 70,000 people on the Arabian Sea will become a popular resort site.

“Security is not an issue over here,” Pesnani said, adding that he hoped Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao would attend the port’s inauguration planned for March or April.

Source: The News