Islamabad: Traders braved sub-zero temperatures, heavy snowfall and the threat of coronavirus to transport scores of stranded containers from China to Pakistan. All essential COVID-19 standard operating procedures were strictly observed during the transport, officials said.
The containers have been successfully transported from Khunjerab Pass, the major trade route between Pakistan and China, to the Silk Route Dry Port Sost in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB). The local administration and the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) facilitated the transport of vehicles through the slippery roads due to snow. During the winters, the temperature at the Khunjerab Pass drops to as low as freezing minus 30 degrees Celsius.
Movement of goods amid COVID-19 and snow
The containers that have been stranded on the Chinese side for weeks were allowed to cross into Pakistan from China after the border was opened for a brief period of 10 days (December 15 to 25) to facilitate the cross border movement of goods. The containers reportedly contained machinery for hydro energy projects, coronavirus essential equipment as well as commercial trade shipments.
Highest paved border
Khunjerab Pass in Gilgit-Baltistan is usually closed from November until April due to heavy snowfall in the region. At 5,000 meters above sea level, Khunjerab is the highest paved international crossing in the world, and a major border port between Pakistan and China which also serves as an important gateway to South Asia and Europe.
Pakistan and China bilateral trade has significantly improved with the construction of the multi-billion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The trade volume between the two neighbours via Khunjerab Pass surged by nearly 47 per cent to $856 million in 2019. However, the trade at the high border crossing came to a screeching halt in 2020 because of the pandemic restrictions due to which the business community suffered huge losses.