Pakistan to link Middle East with Karachi, Gwadar soon through ferry service

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General view of the port city of Gwadar on March, 21, 2019. (AN photo)
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Mahmood Moulvi, adviser to ministry of maritime affairs (center) attending meeting of Pakistani and Saudi delegation at Gwadar. (AN file photo)
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Mahmood Moulvi, adviser to ministry of maritime affairs, says foreign interest in Pakistan’s shipping sector is increasing. (Photo courtesy: Mahmood Moulvi)
Updated 23 March 2019

Pakistan to link Middle East with Karachi, Gwadar soon through ferry service

  • Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and Malaysia are interested in shipping lines with Pakistani carriers, Maritime Ministry official says
  • A $1.8 billion bridge would link Karachi Port with Port Bin Qasim under CPEC

KARACHI: Pakistan is in the final stages of starting ferry service linking Middle Eastern ports with Karachi and Gwadar deep-water port as the go-ahead is expected next week, says Mahmood Moulvi, Adviser to Ministry of Maritime Affairs.

“Ferry service will be launched from Karachi port to Dubai, Oman and Bandar Abbas (Iran). We want to facilitate pilgrims by providing them alternate routes,” Moulvi said in an exclusive interview with Arab News.

He added that “the service will be completely in the private sector and the role of government would be of facilitator.”

Pakistan is currently in the process of amending its shipping policy of 2002 to accommodate more players with the aim to make it business friendly. “The amendment process is in final stages and will be approved, hopefully, in a month as the progress is at the advance stage,” Moulvi informed.

The confidence of foreign investors is being restored with growing interest of Saudis, Singaporean and Malaysian investors in shipping lines, he said. 

“Singaporean investors are coming in April to finalize the details for starting vessels. We are asking them to come up with Pakistani flag carriers,”, he added.

“Roughly, we estimate that around $8-10 million per ship investment would be made. We initially expect two ships to come up to test the waters,” Moulvi said adding that “Pakistan will be in position to minimize around $4.5 billion freight cost that is being paid to foreign shipping companies.”

Recently Khalid A. Al-Falih, Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources for Saudi Arabia and Chairman of the Board of Saudi Aramco, during his visit to Gwadar, expressed kingdom’s interest in investing in logistics. 

“It was our proposal to have joint venture in the oil transportation. We asked them to transport oil in their own tankers because after the completion of oil refinery they would need it on permanent basis,” Moulvi, who was accompanied by the Saudi delegation, said.

Apart from crude oil, Pakistan is one of the major importers of palm oil mainly from Malaysia. During the 8 months of current fiscal year Pakistan has imported 2,052,681 metric tons of palm oil worth $1.24 billion. “We are also proposing Malaysians to come up with palm oil carriers with Pakistani flags. We would pay them in Pak Rupee instead of paying in US Dollar which would reduce the burden on foreign exchange,” Moulvi said.

Pakistan government is also planning to link its two major ports with the help of China under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). “The exact cost of the bridge would be $1.8 billion with $30 million per mile. China wants to bring the project under CPEC otherwise it would be on Built Operate Transfer (BOT) basis. The bridge would consist of a railway track and oil pipeline,” the official said.

China is also interested in building a shipyard in Gwadar while another one is proposed in Karachi, apart from the one already operating. The completion of these shipyards would multiply the shipbuilding activities in the county.

Pakistan lodges protest with Iran over inaction against groups behind Balochistan killings

Updated 58 min 30 sec ago

Pakistan lodges protest with Iran over inaction against groups behind Balochistan killings

  • Pakistan has 'repeatedly' shared intelligence about Iran-based militant groups, foreign office says
  • Protest comes on the eve of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s maiden visit to Iran

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s ministry of foreign affairs on Thursday lodged a formal protest with Iran for not taking action against militant groups that Islamabad believes have bases in Iran and use its territory to launch attacks against Pakistan, including an assault this week in which 14 bus passengers were killed.
The protest comes on the eve of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s two-day maiden visit to Iran which begins on Sunday. 
On Thursday, gunmen disguised as Pakistani security officials forced passengers off buses on the Makran Coastal Highway in the southwestern Balochistan province bordering Iran, killing 14. 
"Pakistan awaits Iran’s response to its request for action against these groups based in Iran, whose locations have been identified by Pakistan a number of times," the foreign office said in a statement. 
Giving details of the attack, the foreign office said between 15-20 gunmen in paramilitary uniforms stopped 3-4 buses at sunrise on April 18 and after identifying the passengers, killed 14 personnel of the Pakistan army.
"After the incident, the terrorists who arrived from border region [between Pakistan and Iran] returned to that area," the statement said. 

"BRAS," an alliance of three Baloch separatist organisations, had claimed responsibility for the attack, the foreign office said, adding that it had repeatedly shared with Iran "information about the hubs of these Baloch terrorist organisations in Iran, having training camps and logistics bases across the border."
“Pakistan has repeatedly shared intelligence about these activities,” the statement read. “Unfortunately no action has been taken by Iran in this regard to date.”
Separatist groups have been waging an insurgency in Balochistan for more than a decade, demanding an end to what they see as the exploitation of their resources by people from other parts of Pakistan. 
In a similar attack in May 2015, gunmen wearing security forces’ uniforms killed at least 22 passengers after unloading them from buses traveling from the western city of Quetta to Karachi on the southern coast.
Militants and Balochi separatists regularly target civilians and the security forces in Balochistan, which is at the centre of the much-vaulted $62 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor that Pakistan is building with Chinese loans.