KARACHI: Mega projects of Karachi Port Trust (KPT) have been submitted for possible inclusion in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) initiative, official sources said on Tuesday.
Secretary Maritime Affairs Amir Khawaja, who recently attended the Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) meeting in China, has tabled some of the mega projects of Karachi Port for inclusion in CPEC, sources said.
A Ministry of Maritime Affairs official, talking to Dawn on the condition of anonymity, said that major projects put before the JCC meeting included multi-billion freight corridor from KPT to Port Qasim for onward movement to upcountry of cargo and Special Economic Zone (SEZ) on the backwaters of Karachi port.
Mega projects on freight corridor, SEZ submitted for consideration to JCC
Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, who was also part of the Pakistani delegation to the JCC meeting, has supported this incorporation, the same source said. In the second phase, these projects would be taken up for approval by the relevant Joint Working Group in their meeting to be held in March.
The officials hope that the inclusion of freight corridor project under the CPEC umbrella will help Karachi Port which has been struggling to get connectivity for Pakistan Deep Water Container Port at Keamari.
Presently most of the port traffic passes through the city, aggravating traffic congestion. Failure to build road connectivity between the giant port and its own hinterland is the hurdle standing in the way of growing traffic volumes there. The proposal to place the freight corridor before the JCC meeting for inclusion under CPEC is the latest attempt to crack this conundrum.
A freight corridor stretching 40-50km from KPT to Port Qasim is envisioned to have rail, road and oil pipeline connectivity along with LNG terminal and power plant.
Similarly, an SEZ adjacent to the port is ideally located for export oriented industry and Chinese had been always keen to keep such industry close to port areas, sources said.
The Karachi Port has already earmarked an area of around 2,000 acres (to be reclaimed) at the backwaters of the port.
The other project, Khawaja proposed to be included in CPEC, is related to internally connecting both East and West wharves of KPT in order to keep the movement of heavy vehicles within port area.
Connectivity has been a big problem for the deep water terminal ever since it was inaugurated. In 2005, KPT envisioned a harbour crossing bridge to connect the port directly to the Northern Bypass for transport link for up country traffic. But at an estimated cost of $1 billion, that plan proved prohibitively expensive.
In this regard Plan B was an elevated expressway to run from Keamari to the Northern Bypass, over Jinnah bridge, which had an estimated price tag of $500mn. Even that plan failed to materialize due to lack of funds.
Published in Dawn, January 9th, 2019