KARACHI: Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Haider Zaidi took to his Twitter account to boast that Port Qasim Authority “made history” on Saturday by berthing two LNG vessels in the same day.
The two vessels – the Al Ghashamiya flagged in the Marshall Islands and Gaslog Singapore flagged in Bermuda – began their voyage from Qatar, according to the site Marine Traffic.
Sharing photos of the two LNG carriers, the minister tweeted: “Kudos to our team at Port Qasim. History was written today. Alhamdullilah for the first time, we’ve been able to berth two LNG vessels in one tide! PQA also about to start night navigation in a couple of weeks. Once that starts, port chocking issue will be addressed.”
According to a source in the liquefied natural gas (LNG) sector, Al Ghashamiya – a Q-flex vessel (a membrane type liquefied natural gas carrier) – arrived a few days earlier but the captain was apprehensive about entering the channel due to lack of depth. The vessel has a draft of 11.5 metres while the Gaslog Singapore has a draft of 11m.
Talking to Dawn, the source said the Al Ghashamiya waited outside the channel while PSO and Qatar Gas both engaged in talks over how to get it to the berth.
Then early morning on Saturday a window appeared with high tide, but by then the second vessel had also appeared.
PQA convoyed both vessels through the channel early on Saturday morning, the first time this has been done since LNG imports began back in 2015.
The Q-flex vessel was scheduled for Engro terminal, but due to siltation — which led to lack of depth — it could not enter. PSO and Qatar Gas discussed but the latter could not override the captain’s decision. It is not clear what changed the captain’s mind eventually, whether a conversation with the captain of the newly arriving vessel or an unusually high tide, or something else. But both vessels entered the channel in a convoy towards their respective berths.
The Al Ghashimiya berthed at the Engro Elengy Terminal Ltd (EETL) and the Gaslog Singapore on the Pakistan GasPort Ltd (PGPL) terminal.
Shipping sources told Dawn that the main fairway of PQA suffers from high levels of silting, requiring frequent dredging, and therefore has small windows in which the tides permit entry into the approach channel.
PQA spokesman said he did not have the operational details of the berthing operations. He said he would revert with detailed answers to the questions posed by Dawn, but did not call till filing of this report.
Published in Dawn, January 20th, 2019