Federal Minister for Ports & Shipping Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo has said that the successful accomplishment of Chinese-administered Gwadar Port depends only on the inputs from the local industrialists who should review the planned facilities and accordingly give inputs for further improvements. “The Ministry of Ports & Shipping will ensure that all required facilities are available at the Gwadar Port for local industrialists across Pakistan”, Hasil Bizenjo said while exchanging views during visit to Karachi Chamber on Monday. The business and industrial community’s inputs will surely be welcomed and taken up at all levels including the provincial and federal levels so that local industrialists across Pakistan could benefit from Gwadar Port, he added.
Chairman Businessmen Group & Former President KCCI Siraj Kassam Teli, Vice Chairmen BMG and Former Presidents KCCI Tahir Khaliq and Zubair Motiwala, President KCCI Shamim Ahmed Firpo, Senior Vice President KCCI Asif Nisar, Vice President Muhammad Younus Soomro and KCCI Managing Committee members were also present at the meeting.
Referring to the concerns expressed by Karachi Chamber over inactive Ports & Shipping Committee since its formation by Kamran Michael Former Federal Minister for Ports and Shipping, Hasil Khan Bizenjo assured to immediately activate this crucial committee whose meeting will be personally presided over by him after October 30th 2016. “We will thoroughly discuss the issues being faced by business and industrial community in dealing with port authorities and shipping companies”, he added.
Ports and Shipping Minister also stressed the need for efficient port operations in Pakistan as it takes five to ten days or even more to get a container cleared from ports in Karachi due to manual examination and obsolete scanners. “Such container is released within half hour at many efficient ports around the world because of their focus on automation and availability of smart scanners. We cannot be up to the mark and compete in any field if our port activities are slow”, he said, adding that the business community should come forward to give suggestions on improving the port operations.
Referring to KCCI’s representation at Karachi Port Trust and Port Qasim Authority, Hasil Khan assured to give similar representation to Karachi Chamber on the Board of Gwadar Port as well. “Ports and Shipping sector can only be strengthened with the cooperation of business community”, he added.
Chairman Businessmen Group & Former President KCCI Siraj Kassam Teli, in his remarks, pointed out that Karachi, with a massive population of more than 22.5 million, has been facing many issues mainly due to federal government’s constant neglect whereas the business and industrial community was also suffering badly because of the discriminatory taxation system. “Despite neglect and discrimination, Karachi continues to contribute massive revenue of more than 65 percent to the national exchequer”, he added.
Siraj Teli urged that FBR should devise a system to analyze the city-wise revenue contribution which will obviously defy all the claims being made by those individuals who usually refuse to accept Karachi’s contribution and come up with lame excuses that Karachi’s contribution was mainly due to the Ports and Head Offices of Companies etc. He requested the Minister to raise voice for the rights of Karachi and make sure that the financial and industrial hub of Pakistan gets due importance from the federal government.
Expressing concerns over government’s plans to shift four departments of State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) from Karachi to Lahore, he said, “We are unable to understand this decision as State Bank has remained in Karachi since Pakistan’s inception and even when the capital of country was shifted to Islamabad, the SBP’s headquarter continued to operate from Karachi.” He asked the Minister to take up this matter with the Federal Government and urge them not to take such steps.
Referring to establishment of CPEC and Gwadar Port, he advised the Minister to ensure that the interest of business and industrial community of Pakistan is protected in these projects. Siraj Teli, while drawing the attention of Ports and Shipping Minister towards to the construction of Deep Sea Port, pointed out that no road network to Karachi Deep Sea Port exists which has to be prioritized as the project was nearing completion.
He said that two bypasses namely Northern Bypass and Southern Bypass were available to cater to the massive port traffic but the transporters avoid using one of these bypasses i.e. the Northern Bypass due to security issues, which results in diverting the heavy traffic on the streets of Karachi. He requested the Minister to ask Sindh government, Police and Rangers to ensure complete security at the Northern Bypass which would restore the confidence of transporters and help in dealing with the issue of traffic congestion.
He further recommended that KPT or the Ministry of Ports and Shipping should construct a special road from Port to Northern Bypass for heavy traffic only which would minimize constant traffic jams and reduce transportation time, besides saving the roads of Karachi from further damages due to movement of heavy vehicles.
Commenting on China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Vice Chairmen BMG and Former President KCCI Zubair Motiwala advised that although it was being repeated that the completion of CPEC and Gwadar Port were likely to bring economic prosperity to Pakistan but the authorities must effectively negotiate with the Chinese government to make sure that the Pakistani business community also benefits more from CPEC, Gwadar Ports and the planned Special Economic Zones.
On the other hand, the logistics from Karachi and Gwadar have to be improved whereas a cargo train service must also be initiated which will be very viable as compared to road networks, he said, adding that the Ministry of Ports and Shipping must maintain equilibrium amongst all ports of Pakistan.
Earlier, President KCCI Shamim Ahmed Firpo expressed deep concern over exorbitant charges by port authorities, shipping lines, and terminal operators whose charges were too high as compared to other ports of the region. “The exorbitant and varying charges by shipping lines under different heads have to be brought down and kept at uniform level in order to bring down the cost of doing business, besides enabling them to efficiently compete”, he added.
Shamim Firpo pointed out that Pakistan’s sea port charges were one of the highest in the South Asian region which discourages cost efficient shipping lines from taking cargo to and from Pakistan resulting in a demand/supply gap and higher transportation costs for the trader. Referring to a recent study, President KCCI pointed out that Karachi’s two ports have charges which are estimated to be three times that of Sri Lanka’s, and seven times that of Singapore. “Such problems should be addressed at the earliest, if we want to see Pakistan rapidly become a hub of regional trade”, he added. He was of the view that Logistic Service Providers Authority (LSPRA) Bill 2013 which initially demanded by the Karachi Chamber remains pending to date, resulting in intensifying the hardships for the business community. The government must approve the LSPRA Bill at the earliest to regulate terminal operators, shipping lines and port operations.