KARACHI, March 3: Experts on ports and shipping sector are not favouring the handing over of the operations of Gwadar port to a Dubai company which already has vital stakes and interest in other regional hub ports including Sallalah and Dubai ports.

These experts opine that when there is a clash of business interest there would be a rare possibility that the port operators from Dubai will be compromised to promote Gwadar port.

The Gwadar port is strategically located outside the sensitive area of Strait of Hormuz but still remains on main shipping lanes. On its western side lay several hub ports of the Gulf and on eastern side Sri Lanka and Indian ports.

Gwadar, therefore, came into worldwide focus during first Gulf war when shipping lines were confronted with security issue and had to pay extra premiums towards insurance, thereby, increasing their operational cost and eroding their profits.

However, the experts believe that if the Gwadar port has to take its right-full place among the regional hub ports and to achieve proper benefits matching its strategic advantages some neutral operators should be asked to takeover its function and operations.

“As a matter of fact Gwadar is already a threat to many hub ports of the region located on its western and eastern side and if the government fails to take correct and pragmatic decision in the larger national interest the opportunity for this port to become natural choice for major shipping lines will be lost, once for all,” observed an expert who requested anonymity.

When looked at the geographical location, Dubai is about 500 nautical miles from Gwadar. A vessel will take about 30 hours more than Gwadar (one-way) adding extra expenses of about $100,000 for an average vessel of 20,000 tons for calling at Gulf ports. Above all shipping companies are even today paying higher premium to insurance companies on entering most volatile Strait of Hormuz, he added.

In a worst case scenario, if the government fails to draw due benefit from this most important hub port of the region, Gwadar could serve as a hub port for the country’s other ports which are presently operating as feeder ports. Presently, the country’s cargo is being transhipped through Sallalah or Dubai ports but after coming up into operation Gwadar could replace them which will not only save time but also revenue in millions of dollars.

These experts believe that Gwadar port being only 70 miles away from Iranian border, could also serve Central Asian transit trade and would only require a link road because Iran has fully developed infrastructure on its side and is even presently used for transit trade to CIS. Both the countries would be earning their due share out of this commercial activity.

With China fast becoming economic giant will soon attained a position of second largest economy of the world and it would badly need such port facilities in the proximity area of Gulf but yet to be out side the sensitive strait of Hormuz.

Consequently, experts are of a strong view that key functions of Gwadar port should have been given to some Chinese companies. Even if the Chinese companies and exporters handle their own cargo it would make Gwadar port as the busiest and most active port of the region. Above all Gwadar is situated atop the shipping lane through which at least 60 per cent of the world oil passes.

These experts estimate that the Asian container trade is expected to increase more rapidly than the overall world average during next 10 years. Asia’s share in containerized imports will rise from 40pc to 44.1pc.

“All care should be made before making final decision because this would have far reaching effect and implications on the future working of Gwadar port which is being considered as the most strategically located port outside the sensitive Strait of Hormuz,” another expert asserted.

The Gwadar Port Authority had invited EoIs last year and received five offers submitted by international and local companies — Hutchison Port Holdings Group (Hong Kong), Globe Marine Services Co (Saudi Arabia), Pakistan International Container Terminal (Karachi), Dubai Port International (Dubai), and Rangoonwala Group (Karachi).

However, only Globe Marin Service, Pakistan International Container Terminal and Dubai Port International had sent their detailed proposals.



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