Pakistan’s twin ports weather the pandemic storm in 2020

Published April 18, 2021
Pakistan’s twin ports appear to have performed slightly better than regional peers during the last one and half a years amid global Covid-19 lockdowns and disruption of business activities from February-March 2020 to date. — Dawn/File
Pakistan’s twin ports appear to have performed slightly better than regional peers during the last one and half a years amid global Covid-19 lockdowns and disruption of business activities from February-March 2020 to date. — Dawn/File

KARACHI: Pakistan’s twin ports appear to have performed slightly better than regional peers during the last one and half a years amid global Covid-19 lockdowns and disruption of business activities from February-March 2020 to date in various countries.

A Karachi Port Trust (KPT) official said the total cargo handling (import and export) at the port inched up to 45.721 million tonnes during 2020 from 44.480m tonnes during 2019.

In the imports category, total volume stood at 30.760m tonnes in 2020 as compared to 29.646m tonnes a year ago. The share of total dry cargo went up to 20.865m tonnes in 2020 from 18.067m tonnes in 2019. Liquid bulk cargo handling, however, fell to 9.895m tonnes last year from 11.580m tonnes in 2019.

In exports, total cargo volume at KPT improved to 14.961m tonnes — comprising 8.929m tonnes dry general cargo and 5.513m tonnes dry bulk cargo — during 2020 as compared to 14.833m tonnes which included 9.471m tonnes of dry general cargo and 4.353m tonnes of dry bulk cargo in 2019.

He said the number of containers handling in twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) at KPT during 2020 stood at 2.080m as compared to 2.098m in 2019. Out of total figure, the number of import TEUs was 1.055m TEUs in 2020 versus 1.046m TEUs in 2019. Export TEUs stood at 1.025m as compared to 1.052m in 2019.

The official said KPT holds around 60 per cent market share in cargo handling of both import and export out of the total country’s foreign trade.

Compared to KPT, cargo handling activities at the Port Qasim Authority (PQA) inched up to 51m tonnes of cargo in 2019-20 versus 49m tonnes in 2018-19.

Arrival of ships at the PQA also stood slightly higher at 1,520 as compared to 1,492. During July-December 2020-21, PQA had handled 29.654m tonnes of cargo while 859 ships arrived.

A senior official at Hutchison Port Pakistan (HPP) said Pakistan is among the countries which are fortunate enough to experience relatively low rates of Covid-19 cases thanks to the decisive and effective actions taken by the government including smart lockdowns instead of continuous full lockdown which would have affected all trade across the country.

“In India, infection rate has remained much higher which translated to greater impact on their trading volumes. After a lockdown from mid-March to April 2020, industries in Pakistan were back working at full capacities. As a result, our imports and exports had been maintained,” he added.

The HPP official said comparing the volume of trade at Pakistan’s ports to the performance of regional ones is not fair due to various reasons. “More appropriately if we look at our own growth year-on-year, the volumes and value of cargo handling have been maintained effectively even with the crisis that was brought about by the pandemic,” he said.

He added that Bangladesh’s economy as a whole has been performing well as highlighted by recent reports from the IMF. This has been primarily due to various incentives that their textile industry has received in recent times triggering a boom in that particular sector. However, he noted that Pakistan has also been faring well on various economic fronts and with current policies “we are on the verge of some key achievements.”

“Looking at our business, we also see remarkable growth especially export of Pakistan products to world-wide destinations. We believe this trend will continue to gain momentum,” he said.

According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), Pakistan’s exports in FY20 plunged by 7pc to $21.4 billion from $23bn in FY19 while imports fell by 19pc to $44.5bn from $55bn in FY19.

Exports and imports of Pakistan during FY19 were $23bn and $61bn.

During July-March 2020-2021, exports rose by 7.4pc to $18.7bn from $17.4bn while imports also increased by 13.5pc to $39.5bn from $35bn in FY19.

According to Indian Ports Association (IPA), top 12 ports in India witnessed considerable decline in cargo traffic for the eleventh straight month in February 2021 to 600.62m tonnes.

Published in Dawn, April 18th, 2021

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