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Pakistan receives first direct container ship from Russia

By Our Correspondent
May 26, 2023

KARACHI: A direct containerised shipping service between Pakistan and Russia was formally inaugurated on Thursday, as the first container vessel ‘Crystal St Petersburg’ on maiden call reached Karachi Port. She was berthed at the Karachi International Container Terminal.

The new shipping service is the outcome of an agreement between Pak Shaheen (Private) Limited and Russia’s Neco Line. The service would provide direct access to Pakistani products in Russian market.

Speaking in the inauguration ceremony, the chief guest Federal Minister of Energy Khurram Dastagir stated that the start of direct shipping service between the two countries would further deepen the bilateral economic relations.

“Connectivity, especially through trade and infrastructure, is part of a vision of the present government for prosperity,” Dastagir said, adding that an accord was signed last week to boost trade relations between the two countries.

“Russian economy has been five times bigger than Pakistan by the GDP. We are seeking a comprehensive free trade agreement,” minister said. “We are slashing tariffs and promoting investments.”

Dastagir was of the view that there are immense business opportunities with a potential to extend the bilateral trade up to $20 billion. The trade relations between the two countries would transform into people to people contacts, he added.

The maiden voyage of the Neco Line service (with Pak Shaheen as their agents in Pakistan) marks the step towards greater market access and reduced costs for Pakistani exporters looking to tap into Russia's huge consumer market.

Abddullah Farrukh, CEO Pak Shaheen Limited, termed the start of direct shipping service between Russia and Pakistan a new chapter in the bilateral relations. He said the service would benefit the exporters immensely who were not actualising the full potential of Russian market due the high freight costs on transshipment of goods.

“A direct shipping service will prove a game changer and pay the way for deepening of trade ties in the form of free trade agreement between the two countries,” he said. “The service will help to export textile, surgical, sports, leather goods as well as fruits and vegetables to Russian market.”

Managing director of Neco Line Alexander Bersenev said that the two vessels would operated between Karachi and Saint Petersburg would operate in a gap of 26 days and it would take 22 days between the two ports under the direct shipping service. “Payment under this direct shipping service would be made in Chinese currency Yuan,” he said. Consul General of Russia in Karachi Andrey Fedorov and others also spoke on this occasion.

Minister for Maritime Affairs Syed Faisal Sabzwari welcomed the vessel at Karachi Port along with Chairman KPT Syedain Raza Zaidi and Consul General of Russia H. E. Andrey Viktorovich Fedorov.

Speaking on the occasion, Sabzwari termed the occasion a landmark achievement of the government, which has given Pakistani trade community to have direct access in Russian markets. “It will open up exports of Pakistani goods to Russia directly. Similarly, it will also be beneficial to Russia and would entail strong business ties with Russia as well as Central Asian states,” he said.