Futuristic Shipping Policy being prepared: Vice Admiral(R) Iftikhar Rao

Vice Admiral (R) Iftikhar Rao, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Maritime, disclosed that the government is shaping a futuristic Shipping Policy keeping in view the new dynamics of the Maritime Sector. The Policy would address all aspects that would lead to a pragmatic outlook and enable all stakeholders to participate with more determination. He added that Maritime Economic Security is also crucial, although it differs from Maritime Naval Security. Therefore, Maritime Economic Security and Maritime Military Security must be equally important. He was presenting his keynote address as Chief Guest at the Maritime Conference hosted by Global Compact Network Pakistan and the Maritime Anti-Corruption Network based in Denmark.

Admiral Rao further stated that Pakistan pays over $7 billion each year to foreign shipping lines, which is a huge burden on the country’s foreign exchange reserves. He said that until 1960, Pakistan had no state-owned shipping company and now has only PNSC. He advised the private sector to enter the shipping sector since the future is very profitable. He also announced that the private sector should become a major player in the Blue Economy. In his opinion, those in the Maritime Industry are very fortunate and progressive. He said that, unfortunately, information is lacking about the Maritime Industry and Blue Economy; hence, the transformation and change are very slow, which is why the private sector is not eager to invest. However, the good side is that the private sector is always pragmatic and practical, so he is very optimistic.

Admiral Rao added that there would be a mega shortage of seafarers since the demand for trained human resources would hugely increase. Therefore, the Pakistan Marine Academy graduates must be provided practical training on foreign ships through arrangements with the owners of these shipping lines. He also asked the private sector to provide ways and means to train the cadets who, as seafarers, could be employed at the international level on foreign ships and earn foreign exchange for the country. He said that in the first instance, at least 100 seafarers should be annually accommodated, and the government is in contact with the shipping lines for their support.

In his welcome address, Majyd Aziz, President of GCNP, said that GCNP and MACN are focused on initiating fundamental change in the Maritime ecosystem through sensitising, informing, and training stakeholders to eradicate corrupt practices substantially. He said three major conferences, along with many consultative meetings, individual sessions, webinars, etc., had been undertaken. He said he is pleased to report that all stakeholders and users of ports have unanimously joined the bandwagon and have pledged to achieve the objective of zero tolerance for corruption. He said the menace of corruption has tarnished the global image of Pakistan and, at the same time, increased the cost of doing business.

Moreover, corruption is now institutionalised, and it is high time that exemplary punishment is given to those whose corrupt practices are well known, as this would introduce deterrence for others who indulge in corrupt or bad practices. He proposed that the Blue Economy should also be a priority in the Special Investment Facilitation Council domain since the focus on indigenous resources must be encouraged rather than too much dependence on imported inputs. He also said that GCNP is working on an App so members could access this for any issues they face. He suggested that this App be linked to PSW so that a track remedy could be provided.

In her speech, Ms Alia Shahid, Director General of Ports & Shipping, stated that she had been involved with this project from day one and is pleased that momentum has been created to achieve the objectives. She added that any new project generally seems impossible, but if it is doable and feasible, everyone must join to make it successful. She said that, in her opinion, the path is becoming clearer, and this is a great opportunity to move forward. She complimented GCNP and MACN and offered full support for her organisation.

In his presentation, Mathias Bak, Associate from MACN, said that now it is time to undertake a collective action by all stakeholders. Collective action is a process in which stakeholders coordinate to jointly address shared challenges and create a critical mass to forge ahead with unity and sincerity of purpose. He disclosed that such efforts have been successful in Nigeria, India, and Argentina, where the positive rate was nearly 100%.

He outlined five stages of the collective action lifecycle that are essential. He enumerated these as mapping and alliance building, scoping, inception, implementation, and continuous adaptation. He said that the project in Pakistan is at the inception stage, and with stakeholders’ full support, it would not take long to reach the implementation stage. He said MACN is committed to achieving this in Pakistan.

In his presentation, Adnan Rafiq, Domain Officer of Pakistan Single Window, stated that 80% of global trade compliances are now covered under PSW, and over 67,000 users have subscribed to PSW. He disclosed that Pakistan is paying $450 million additional cost in complying with regulations related to imports. However, with PSW, the financial cost, time, and complications are substantially reduced, resulting in huge savings in foreign exchange.

Project Manager Muhammad Akram moderated a very informative panel discussion.

The panellists Kamran Farid, President Stevedores Conference, Kashif Ali, Executive Director Transparency International, Capt. Muqadas Sharif, representing Ship Agents, and Commander Idrees of Bahria University offered their views on how collective action could be structured and sustained among maritime industry stakeholders to minimise corruption in the handling of cargo and operations within ports and what role could regulatory frameworks and industry guidelines play in fostering a culture of integrity and transparency within the maritime industry. The project advisor, Tanvir Ahmad, offered the concluding remarks and vote of thanks while GCNP Executive Director Khalid Junejo organised and coordinated the event.

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