KARACHI, Oct 23: Three more terminal operators have shown keen interest in the Pakistan Deep Water Container Port, which is being built by the Karachi Port in collaboration with private sector at an estimated cost of $1.2 billion at Keamari Groyne area.

On completion of first phase by the year 2009, Pakistan will emerge as a first country on the map of world ports to have a deep water container terminal with 18-metre depth.

This would mean that the terminal would be capable of receiving and handling super post Panamax container ships with a loading capacity of around 14,000 boxes. Presently largest container terminal in operation have a loaded capacity of little over 9,000 TEUs.

The Karachi Port Trust (KPT) in July invited expressions of interest (EoIs) for operator to run the deep draft container terminal and the last date was fixed August 18, 2006. But on the request of Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) the date was extended to Sept 19, 2006.

As a result of this three more world-renowned terminal operators have shown keen interest in the terminal which is going to be a futuristic and state-of-the-art port facility in the region.

The three firms include M/s Gulftainer Company, UAE with a consortium of Emirater Trading Agency/Gulftainer Co and ETA Ascon, UAE. M/s Noor Financial Investment Co Kuwait with a consortium of KASB Securities Ltd, Karachi, Megatech (Pvt) Ltd Karachi and Mega & Forbes Group, Karachi. The third company is Port World Logistics, Karachi with a consortium of RGL Port International, Kuwait.

Undoubtedly, it is a good omen that such a large number of container operators are showing interest in the container terminal but the Karachi Port authorities will have to be extra careful in making selection because such a mega project could ill afford any experiment or mistake which may threaten its success.

In selecting terminal operator, the KPT will have to lay down such conditions which could ensure that operator is not only financially sound but also have long experience in handling large number of containerised cargo. It should also seek trans-shipment experience because the deep draft container terminal would ultimately become hub port for the region.

With a huge capacity to handle containerised cargo up to 1.5 million boxes the terminal is also going to cater to the needs of western provinces of China as it will give them about 500-km margin in distance.

Similarly, the western provinces of India could also benefit from the proximity and in an era where freight charges are becoming a major component in ensuring competitive trade, therefore, Indian mercantile community would prefer to use this edge to remain viable and competitive.

Earlier, the Karachi port received six expressions of interest from private sector companies for the terminal which is being established on the basis of Built Operate and Transfer (BOT) with an initial period of 25 years extendable for another 25 years, on mutually agreed terms and conditions.

These companies are PSA International Pvt Ltd (Singapore), Hutchison Port Holding (Hong Kong), A P Moller-Maersk Group Company, DP World (Dubai), International Container Terminal Services (Philippines) and Pakistan International Container Terminal (PICT), Karachi.

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