Shipping Industry in Pakistan

Economic Review, January 2004 | Go to article overview

Shipping Industry in Pakistan


At last the only and too old oil tanker of our national flag carrier shipping company has been scrapped and the dry cargo fleet of Pakistan National Shipping Corporation has also grown too old and too outdated. Berth occupancy-wise our both ports Karachi and Bin Qasim are working under-capacity. After the tragedy of September 11 job market for Pakistani sea-men has been very badly affected. In these crises our national maritime/shipping industry is facing challenging task.

Pakistan imports more than twothirds of its annual petroleum demand from Saudi Arabia and Iran which is more than five million tonnes per annum. We also import more than one million tonnes of various grades of edible oil (approximately seventy per cent of our edible oil) for domestic consumption from Far East. We also import huge quantities of phosphoric acid for fertilizer production, different types of lubricants, various grades of oleo chemicals and so many other chemicals. We also export annually more than 200,000 tonnes of naphtha, appreciable quantities of molasses and some other chemicals. Since 1993 the import of liquid petroleum gases has been rapidly increasing. Other than recently demised oil tanker "Johor" there has been no Pakistani participation in the maritime transport of liquid cargoes.

Most of the freight revenue of maritime transport in Pakistan goes to the liquid cargo transport sector. But our participation in this transport sector is nil. Why is it so and why are we losing every year huge amounts of revenue in foreign exchange, is in fact one of the most important questions regarding revival of our economy. In past the question acquired a lot of public concern and the government has shown its interest by developing Gwadar Port and issuing new policy for the shipping industry.

But for the revival of shipping in our country, other than development of Gwadar and announcement of shipping policy, lot more is required to be done and for correct steps to develop the shipping sector in our country, the hole shipping scenario needs to be analyzed. Since independence upto the separation of Bangladesh the maritime transport grew in Pakistan very rapidly. It had always been a lucrative revenue earning business. And so many world renowned tycoons made their fortunes from shipping. Upto 1971 all governments had supported private sector participation in maritime transport. Revenue earning was, of course, the prime objective of entrepreneurs in the shipping business of those days but they also played a vital role in the development of maritime technology in Pakistan. Our country developed maritime transport industry and our merchant marine trained good managers for this industry.

Pakistan National Shipping Corporation, Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works, upgradation of Chalna port and Maritime Training Academy near Chittagong were established in the government sector. Similarly Pakistan Shipping Lines (a) joint venture of private ship owners), Pan Islamic Steamship Company and so many other well known shipping companies were incorporated in the private sector. The initial plan of setting up Shipowners College in Karachi was in fact a training facility for merchant marine in Pakistan.

The decade of seventies was the era of semi-automation in maritime industry. But full automation and computerization of maritime industry started in the late seventies. The revolution of automation, induction of multi-model transport, the concept of large-size bulk carriers and development of chemical and gas tankers changed the entire scenario of maritime transport. The conventional multi-decker cargo ships started vanishing and ports scenes also changed. Long guays served with mechanical cranes slowly started being replaced with modern container terminals fitted with gantry cranes and bulk cargo terminals served with conveyor belts and heavy lift cranes. Liquid cargo handling facilities and filling terminals for liquid gases rapidly developed. …

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