Islamabad: Pakistan could save up to $6 billion annually if it built more capacity in its domestic shipping industry – a sum that is equal to the IMF bailout package that the country is receiving.
“Nearly 85 percent of Pakistan’s total international trade (of about 100 million tons) is carried out by foreign ships on which we spend almost $6 billion yearly,” said Syed Muhammad Obaidullah, a maritime and defence analyst.
“Imagine if we could save this staggering amount…”
Back in focus
A new tweet by Pakistan prime Minister Imran Khan has drawn renewed focus on the country’s maritime possibilities.. and the need for an immediate funding support to tap that potential.
The Prime Minister Khan called for efforts to revitalise the maritime economy to save valuable foreign exchange and generate more jobs.
In the 1980’s, the country’s Gadani port was the world’s largest ship-breaking yard, earning sizeable foreign exchange and creating jobs to thousands.
“If we do not transform it into “green” ship recycling - to protect both the workers and environment - Pakistan’s ranking may slip down from the current number three,” Obaidullah said.
Now, if new investments are channelled into raising much needed capacity at Pakistan National Shipping Corporation, it could set up just the boost the industry needs. .
So much to tap
Another sub-category where Pakistan’s natural resources could be better exploited is with seafood.
Changes could fetch Pakistan $1 billion a year, said Obaidullah. “Pakistan’s coastline is nearly 1,050 kilometres, while its Exclusive Economic Zone covers an area of 290,000 square kilometres.
“Bangladesh’s coastline is about half as compared to Pakistan - but the country is earning over a billion dollars from seafood exports.”
India, which is now the fourth-biggest seafood exporter, is earning about $6billion from such. “Pakistan is merely earning around $350 million (to $450 million) ,” he added.
Pakistan’s Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Zaidi said that the ministry would deliver its best by “realising and maximising the enormous potential of the “blue economy”.”
With the new deep sea fishing policy, Pakistan’s seafood exports can earn up to $2 billion, he said.
Creating that ‘blue’ economy
It includes all economic activities relating to commercial projects involving oceans and seas. It includes interlinked sectors such as fisheries, aquaculture, coastal tourism, maritime transport, shipbuilding and marine extraction of oil and gas, marine biotechnology, renewable energy and more.