With rising trade volumes, Karachi’s port chokes on traffic

Published June 8, 2019
A view of the Karachi port. The road connectivity between the port and the rest of the country has been coming under growing strain over the decades.
A view of the Karachi port. The road connectivity between the port and the rest of the country has been coming under growing strain over the decades.

KARACHI: The Karachi Port for over two decades has been striving to get direct connectivity for the haulage of cargo with the country’s highways (Super Highway/M-9) but the plans couldn’t materialise due to non-cooperation of city, provincial and federal bodies.

As a result, the port is almost clogged with rising volume of external trade passing through Karachi which has seen rapid growth of motor vehicles on its road network.

Cargo handled by Karachi Port has gone from around 2.22 million tonnes at the time of partition to current levels of over 54m tonnes along with over 2m containers per annum.

According to official sources, the Karachi Port Trust (KPT) in mid-1990s tried to evolve a strategy wherein the port would be linked with the two city ends by developing northern and southern bypass.

To achieve this, the port developed two circular roads at its own cost - one over Native Jetty Bridge (now Jinnah Bridge) and the other over Korangi Road. Although the northern bypass partially became operative, the port failed to get connectivity for southern bypass because Defence Housing Authority (DHA) refused to allow the movement of heavy vehicles on Sunset Boulevard.

In early 2000s, KPT initiated Harbour Crossing Bridge project to directly link to the Pakistan Deep Water Container Terminal (now named South Wharf) but was never completed.

The steel-wire hanging harbour crossing bridge was to start from Oil Piers Area at Keamari and would have landed at Manora Island and from there would have been linked to northern bypass after passing close to PAF Masroor Airbase. But there was immediate objection from Pakistan Air Force (PAF), sources added.

An alternative plan that distanced the movement was of heavy vehicles from the airbase was worked out but the high cost led it to being shelved, especially after the Asian Development Bank and federal government refused to fund the mega project having an estimated price tag of $1 billion.

The KPT made another three-tier plan: developing and reconstructing oil installation areas on roads up to Bilawal Chowrangi.

The then Commissioner Karachi gave it a go-ahead after which the port authorities initiated designing/construction work, tendering and received bids from companies. However, the new commissioner stopped the work on a plea that heavy vehicles could not pass through Bilawal Chowrangi.

Another KPT plan for an elevated 11km expressway from South Wharf to the northern bypass was also rejected by the federal government.

The port authority came up with a fifth possible plan wanting to connect the South Wharf (PDWCT) by developing a road passing through Chinna Creek towards Mai Kolachi and from there onwards to Northern Bypass after moving over Jinnah Bridge.

However, this became a victim of differences between KPT and federal government over mode of tendering the job. The latter wanted the project to be tendered while KPT believes since there is a fear of law and order at Gulbai (near Northern Bypass) owing to removal of large chunks of encouragements the work should be directly awarded to National Logistic Cell or Frontier Works Organisation.

The KPT high official requesting anonymity said that if the premier port of the country has to be made efficient and meet the challenges of soaring cargo volumes thebnall the stakeholders, including federal, provincial and city governments should come on one page.

Ports across the world, he said, are supported by the state because they cater to the needs of a nation and not of a city or province.

Therefore, the KPT has come up with another plan so that it could have direct link with the national or super highway.

Under the plan which had been conceived by General Manager Operations Rear Admiral Asif Hameed a freight corridor project is currently under study and a consultant has been hired to prepare a feasibility study.

The freight corridor running in front of Sea View Apartments in the sea will have road, rail, POL and gas pipelines. It will have a length of around 40-50km starting from Karachi Port to Port Qasim and will get road connectivity for upcountry.

Published in Dawn, June 8th, 2019



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