ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s two key oil importing facilities at Karachi Port and Port Qasim are facing extreme congestion because of port constraints and increasing road and sea transport, resulting in economic loss and higher financial costs.

A top government official at the petroleum division told Dawn that a series of gaps in port handling facilities and onward transportation to upcountry had been identified by independent consultants, asking the government to swiftly move to address these constraints.

“One of the main areas of concern is the constraints at the ports due to increasing traffic and the resulting congestion” but other obstacles also include limited storage facilities at ports, non-utilisation of a specialised oil pier, excessive sampling and testing times, use of oil piers by non-oil tankers and low pumping rates of oil and non-oil tankers, the official quoted a report as highlighting.

“The main constraint in the handling of cargoes at Keamari is inadequate storages of POL products, specially the storages for the fast increasing volumes of motor gasoline, commonly known as petrol,” the report said.

Government advised to build a new terminal at Port Qasim

Generally, one tanker of 50,000 tonnes could be unloaded each week and “hence the limiting capacity of motor gasoline handling at Keamari on the basis of available storage be considered as 2.3 million tonnes per year (46 ships of 50,000 tonnes each)”, the official said.

In just six months, there was an additional waiting time of 274 days for ships at the outer anchorage and an extra 63 days on berth. Based on 160 available days in six months, this translates into about two ships of 36,000 tonnes capacity continuously providing additional operational storage to shore tanks.

The report has also highlighted the need for tremendously increasing storages at Keamari and also at the same time increasing imports of petrol. It has been reported that a ban on new tank construction at Keamari and land availability for this magnitude of storage development is also a big limitation at the port.

The report pointed out that oil handling facilities at the Port Qasim were reasonably enough at present but the situation after 2019-20 would change for which the government and the PQ authorities should plan now and construct a new terminal.

Simultaneously, it has been advised as a long-term solution to shift petrol transportation through white oil pipeline instead of road transport to reduce traffic congestion and upliftment rate. The white oil pipeline is currently being used for transportation of high-speed diesel (HSD) from PQ to Mehmoodkot with almost half capacity utilisation which could be converted to duel-fuel (petrol and diesel) delivery.

Till such time, the petrol dispatches to upcountry destinations will continue through tank lorries only. “As the imports of petrol increase, traffic congestion on Karachi roads will become a major issue,” said the report advocating shifting of bigger part of petrol imports to Port Qasim as Fotco jetty was away from Karachi city and close to Karachi exit points.

It said the one of the main reason for the bottlenecks at Fotco (PQ) was the use of the white oil pipeline as storage rather than a pipeline system. For example in the fiscal year 2014-15, the pumping down time of white oil pipeline was just 134 days, meaning by that 134 days out of 335 days in a year pumping of this pipeline was stopped.

“The main reason of this storage is insufficient or no ullage (the amount by which a container falls short of being full) at Mehmoodkot for receiving HSD from Port Qasim”. This capacity constraint is because of bottlenecks in onward dispatches of HSD to local oil marketing companies.

To address the problem, storage should be developed at Mehmoodkot so that Port Qasim storages remain free to receive HSD imports through tankers at Fotco. The report has also recommended utilising the capacity of Byco’s single point mooring facility for furnace oil imports and diversion of Hub Power Company’s fuel requirement through Byco pipeline instead of PSO’s tankers by restructuring the long-term contract between Asia Petroleum and the PSO.

Published in Dawn, August 7th, 2017

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