Development of Dry Ports

By Osmers, Ralph D. | Economic Review, June 1993 | Go to article overview

Development of Dry Ports


Osmers, Ralph D., Economic Review


Multimodal transport is gradually replacing traditional transport and trading methods, also in Pakistan, although it would be an exaggeration to say that Pakistan is a frontline state in this respect. There is however a growing awareness of the advantages of updating trade and transport technology. This involves not only a revision of legislation, procedures and documentation but also rehabilitation and modernization of the infrastructure, the equipment and the organization of transport operations.

The Multimodal Transport & Trade Facilitation Programme is tackling this subject since mid 1992 with the active and enthusiastic participation of more than one hundred people engaged in trade and transport, from the public as well as the private sector. Many of them are today in this audience.

Without under-estimating the importance of institutional reforms that are required I will presently only deal with the physical and organizational aspects of our Programme.

The development of multimodal transport in Pakistan will have a tremendous impact on the future role of the ports. The traditional port activities such as cargo handling, storage, customs clearance, sorting and distribution or collection of cargo will gradually shift to off-port locations close to the areas of production and consumption. The ports will become pure transfer points between land and sea transport and, relieved from most of the time and space consuming traditional functions, their throughput capacities will vastly increase. This process requires a parallel reorganization and modernization of the seaports, of the inland dry ports, and of the connecting inland transport. Very little has happened as yet in Pakistan in this respect.

Karachi handles about half a million container units per year and of these about 300,000 are from or for inland origins/destinations. Contrary to all logic and economic principles 90% of these containers are stuffed and stripped in the port area and their contents are transported inland as conventional break-bulk cargoes. This practice severely limits the throughput capacity of the port and prevents it from efficiently coping with the increasing cargo volumes. Karachi's East Wharf, as it is presently operated, has a dry cargo throughput capacity of not more than about five million tons per year. However, if properly planned and operated this capacity could increase to up to twenty million tons of containerized cargo per year, which is the forecasted container throughput in about twenty years time.

This requires proper long term planning and zoning Plans for Karachi, with concentration of all future container activities on the East Wharf. This will leave the West Wharf for the handling of the remaining conventional and semi-bulk cargoes and the Keamari area for the handling of the oil cargoes.

Unfortunately KPT has different ideas about this and in a newspaper notice ten days ago has invited expressions of interest from the private sector for the development of container terminals at various locations scattered all over the port, namely berths 1-4, berths 14-17 and berths 22-24. If this would be allowed to happen it would abort any plans for an efficient organization of the inland transportation of the containers under the multimodal transport concept.

It should also be noted in this respect that berths 1-4 on East Wharf and berths 22-24 on West Wharf, proposed by KPT for conversion to container terminals, are totally unsuitable for this purpose as there is not enough space available behind the berths. For modern container terminals at least 300 meter is required behind the quay, which is in Karachi only available behind berths 5 to 17 of the East Wharf.

However, KPT is effectively blocking any future expansion of the container terminal development which is taking place on berths 14 to 17 in that area by declaring berth 13 as a berth for KPT's own operations, whatever these may be, and by dedicating berths 5 to 12 for multi-purpose operations.

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