Govt sees 2016 as take-off year for CPEC project

ISLAMABAD: The government expects 2016 to be the take-off year for the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Gwadar port, with a 100% increase in cargo-handling and start of the free economic zone.

Ports & Shipping Minister Kamran Michael stated this in a written reply submitted in the National Assembly in response to a question raised by PPP’s Mahreen Razaque Bhutto last week regarding the port’s role in the country’s development during the past three years.

Michael said that during the past two and a half years, besides handling limited government subsidised imports of urea, for the first time the Gwadar port started containerised export from May 2015.

“So far six ships have discharged 35 empty 40-feet containers and exported 25 loaded 40-feet containers carrying 675 tons of frozen fish to the international market.”

He added that during the past three years around 40 ships docked at the Gwadar port and discharged 1.6 million tons of urea.

Hard times

“Lack of railroad connectivity, unavailability of water, power and gas resources, and absence of required commercial and industrial facilities in Gwadar have hampered full utilisation of prospects of greater trade and economic development of Pakistan,” read Michael’s response.

Under the concession agreement of 2013, it said a private company has been rehabilitating unused and outdated port equipment, machinery and facilities, finalising the port development plan, and enhancing infrastructure and superstructures to improve port operations.

Hope

The minister said that under the CPEC, it has been planned to construct the Gwadar East Bay Expressway with Chinese assistance to connect the port with the M-8 motorway and N-85 highway. “Thus, Gwadar shall have its direct link to Ratodero/Sukkur and Quetta through Turbat, Panjgur and Surab.”

To address water, electricity and gas issues, early harvest projects have been approved under the CPEC and would be completed within three to five years, he added.

Similarly, the Gwadar Port Authority has signed sister-port relationship memorandums of understanding with the Qingdao and Zhuhai ports of China and with the Chabahar port of Iran. “The port operator is finalising the free zone master plan and it is expected to start during March-April 2016.”

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