KARACHI: The government is seeking a foreign developer to upgrade berthing facilities at Gwadar port after it resumed Afghan transit trade through the port that lies at the nexus of Chinese-funded economic corridor project, it was learnt on Friday.
Gwadar Port Authority (GPA) floated international tenders for the up-gradation of berthing facilities, supply and installation of a floating jetty and cranes at the port. The bids were from firms for supply and installation of equipment for safety of navigation.
Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province, housing the port, is an integral part of Chinese belt-and-road initiative envisaging infrastructure development in 70 countries. Under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, the port because of its proximity to Chinese province is to be used as trade spot between Asia and other parts of the world.
Gwadar port has an existing capacity to handle 50,000 deadweight tonnage bulk carriers at the rate of 12.5 metre maximum depth. The port has three multipurpose berths and each is 200 metres long.
“Given the expected rapid growth in demand for port capacity, the authority continues expanding the capacity of Gwadar port,” said an official document.
Gwadar port is being developed at the cost of about $600 million. Additional three berths will be constructed in two years, according to the document.
Traffic at Gwadar port is expected to increase after government allowed transit trade imports, both containerized and bulk, for onward transportation to Afghanistan.
Government is also streamlining the regulatory framework related to transit trade to expand its scope across the land-locked central Asian states. Pakistan and Afghanistan have reached an understanding on the broad parameters of Afghan exports to Pakistan and India and the use of Afghan territory for Pakistan’s exports to the central Asian states.
Currently, Pakistan has two main operating international deep-sea ports: Karachi Port and Port Qasim. Their capacity expansion programs are unable to keep pace with the expected growth in demand, resulting in a need for a third port to fill the gap. The Gwadar port has been operational since March 2018, and it was opened for Afghan transit trade in October last year. The first ship carrying containers for Afghan transit trade docked at the port on January 14 this year.
The transshipment activity will pick up as other businesses gain pace in the free zones. Nine industries are already being set up in the Gwadar free zone. The Gwadar deep-sea port is CPEC’s starting point. It is also considered to be the cheapest route for imports and exports to and from China and the Central Asian countries. The port provides a much shorter and inexpensive route to ship oil and gas from the Middle East and minerals from Africa to these destinations.