ISLAMABAD – The government has approved a plan to set up a new shipyard at Gwadar with the capacity to build very large and ultra large crude carriers, sources told The Nation.
Sources in the Defence Ministry said the plan approved by the federal cabinet would be implemented within three to five years. The plan also includes dry docking facilities for repairing and maintenance of commercial ships including oil and gas tankers.
Pakistan Navy especially the incumbent Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi from the very outset has been strongly supporting plans to set up Gwadar shipyard.
Pakistan Navy was of the view that since technical know-how and basic industrial infrastructure to support research and development (R&D) is available in the country, it was about time to integrate and optimise these facilities to further strengthen the process of self reliance.
The government believes that the shipbuilding industry will provide a good avenue for generating employment and supporting economic growth in the country.
As per the initial framework unveiled in 2008, Gwadar shipyard would initially offer ship repair and maintenance services at two dry docks with the capacity to handle 600,000 DWT (deadweight tonnage).
It would eventually lead to shipbuilding with capacity of constructing up to VLCC and ULCC.
At present, the state-owned Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works (KSEW) is the lone facility available in Pakistan for shipbuilding, maintenance and repair work.
But this facility is largely catering to the needs of Pakistan Navy whose responsibilities have increased to meet the defence needs of the country in the wake of multi-billion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that connects the deep sea Gwadar port with China.
The government is also upgrading the facilities at the KSEW by enhancing its capacity by installing Syncrolift ship-lift-and-transfer system.
Nevertheless, this facility would remain dedicated to meet the future needs of Pakistan Navy.
Experts believe Gwadar shipyard would become a very viable commercial venture because of the lack of adequate shipbuilding facilities in the region.
Iran, which operates the largest commercial shipping fleet, has also developed basic know how, yet it will take a long time to become a viable shipbuilding nation.
None of the Gulf Arab countries have a proper shipbuilding facility except offering limited dry docking facilities including Arab Shipbuilding and Repair Yard (ASRY) in Bahrain and in the UAE.
Since these are very limited facility for repair and maintenance, most of the commercial ships move to Singapore for this service.
Analysts are of the view that Gwadar shipyard because of its close proximity to the Persian Gulf through which nearly 38 per cent of the world’s precious goods largely oil and gas are carried, could attract many commercial vessels looking for maintenance and repair works.