ISLAMABAD  - The Pakistan Economy Watch (PEW) on Saturday called for increased focus on developing ports to ensure smooth flow of merchandise and stimulation of economic activities. Country is passing through challenges while economy is under pressure due to various reasons including congestion of ports which remains one of the main hurdles to economic growth, it said.

Pakistan should allocate extra resources for development of ports which are handling 90 per cent of the nation’s external trade to unleash a new era of maritime commerce, said Dr. Murtaza Mughal, President PEW.

He said that ports needs a major policy transformation as it holds the key to growth of most sectors like manufacturing, agriculture and trade. Port Qasim handling around 37 per cent of the nation’s cargo is earning good profit but the progress is slow while procedures have become a problem.

Development of Gwadar Port located at the juncture of South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East, needs urgent attention as all Pakistani ports hardly handle 1.1 million containers annually while only one Port of Jabel Ali, UAE handles 20 million containers.

Similarly, the Port of Sohar, one of the eight in Oman, is hardly 100 km away from Gwadar, it has also become a major transhipment hub which is handling 1.5 million containers while Port Sultan Qaboos can hand over 20 million tonnes of cargo, he said. Shanghai, China is on the top of 50 best container ports of the, Singapore in second while Pakistan is not mentioned in the list.

Pakistan stands at 32nd in Southeast Asia due to cumbersome operational, administrative and security procedures making it ill-equipped for competition and expansive for trade. Pakistani ports are at the bottom in the Saarc region with Dhaka on the top.

There are around 100,000 cargo ships in the world excluding naval ships and fishing boats etc., India and Iran owns more than 400 while PNSC which once had 70 ships is now operating few.