Sharjah: Sharjah-based port management firm Gulftainer has launched a Dh183.5-million joint venture in Pakistan to provide land cargo transport services amid an increase in the country's foreign trade.

Set up in equal partnership with Karachi-based logistics company Pak Shaheen Group, the joint venture will move cargo between Pakistani cities and ports.

Known as Gulftainer MTI, the company aims to become the largest logistics and transport firm in Pakistan.

Gulftainer general manager Peter Richards said the venture will benefit from an absence of strong competition in the fragmented logistics sector of Pakistan.

"The intention of this joint venture is to invest in new equipment and systems, with the aim of revamping and enhancing inland transportation within Pakistan," the partners said in a statement.

"Healthy economic environment in Pakistan has allowed for a much greater amount of import and export volume to pass through Karachi's terminals.

"This new joint venture aims to provide improved transportation alternatives," said Yusuf Farrukh, chief executive officer of Pak Shaheen Group.

Initially, 22 trucks equip-ped with global positioning system (GPS) will be deployed, but the fleet size will increase to 100 by the end of 2007, Richards said.

All the vehicles will be linked to an advanced information technology system, allowing shipping lines, importers and exporters to monitor their cargoes throughout Pakistan.

The company expects to move 2,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent container unit) per month. It will hold talks with Pakistan car manufacturers on distributing their vehicles throughout the country.

The Pakistani venture is Gulftainer's first foreign road transport operation. It manages the container terminals of Sharjah and Khor Fakkan and operates a fleet of trucks in the UAE.

Richards said Gulftainer wants to use its UAE-gained experience of dealing with shipping lines and their customers in its overseas expansion.

Pak Shaheen Group and Gulftainer also plan to develop an inland container depot (ICD), container freight station, refrigeration parks and cold stores as part of the $183.5-million spending plan.