The federal cabinet of Pakistan on Tuesday, September 8, gave formal approval to the launch of a ferry service out of ports Gwadar and Karachi to the neighbouring states Iran, Iraq, UAE-United Arab Emirates and beyond.
Currently, there was no national or international commercial ferry service operating in the country for the purpose of transportation of goods and passengers. In the regional countries like Bangladesh, Iran, Oman, Sri Lanka, and there were established ferry operators successfully running on a variety of routes. The potential for initiating Pakistan's ferry service has been felt for quite some time, especially in providing an alternate route for Zaireen intending to call at holy sites in Iran and Iraq.
Transportation between Gwadar and Karachi and provision of an alternate water route between Port Qasim and Karachi also has potential for the country.
The Ministry of Maritime Affairs moved a summary for Prime Minister back on December 15, 2017, through the interior, foreign affairs, revenue and defence divisions, proposing the launch of a ferry service through PNSC (Pakistan National Shipping Corporation). The proposal was endorsed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Interior but the Defence Division raised observations and conditions on the proposed service. The Prime Minister’s Office returned the summary with directions to address the observations and re-submit the same.
The maritime affairs ministry re-submitted the proposal and suggested the involvement of private operators and a slightly changed route. The Defence Division supported it but stressed that ferry service should be launched in 3 phases, recommending ferry services to Muscat and then to UAE and Abu Dhabi in 1st and 2nd phases, respectively, and later to Iran and Iraq in the 3rd phase. The re-submitted proposal was returned by the Prime Minister’s Office, with the direction to convene a meeting of the stakeholders to address all the observations and thereafter submit recommendations.
On Tuesday, September 8, the ministry proposed starting ferry service from Karachi Port, linking Port Qasim and Gwadar Port with Bandar Abbas (Iran), Basra (Iraq), Muscat (Oman) and Dubai (UAE) separately or collectively.
The ferry terminals at Karachi, Qasim and/or Gwadar Port will be established by the port authorities, replicating the operational facilities related to immigration, customs, security, etc. as that of any international airport in the country.