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Navy chief stresses for collective efforts to jumpstart maritime sector

By our correspondents
January 25, 2018

KARACHI: Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi has said the maritime sector has immense potential and all the stakeholders should participate to explore the opportunity for accelerated economic growth.

“Pakistan has been blessed with huge sea, which has many mineral resources, including petroleum,” the Navy Chief said at a meeting with members of Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) on Wednesday.

He said there was dire need to formulate policy for exploring undersea natural deposits and exploring the maritime sector. “At present maritime affairs are being dealt by 8-9 ministries,” he said, and added that it has been proposed to bring it under one ministry to jumpstart the maritime sector.

Admiral Abbasi also suggested that the one ministry should have people with expertise in the relevant fields.

Admiral Abbasi said political will was also the key to bring reform in this sector. He said political power in the National Assembly concentrated on GT Road and Hazara Belt. “There are only 20 seats for Karachi and further only one seat from Karachi to Pishin,” he added.

He said interaction with the business community and collaboration with the private sector would help achieve the maritime vision.

The Navy chief said the government recently changed the name of Ports and Shipping ministry to Maritime Affairs. “We cannot bring changes through change of name. We have to make maximum efforts,” he added.

He said Pakistan was spending huge foreign exchange on insurance of foreign ships, resulting in high cost of imported goods. “Pakistan Navy has raised its voiced at the international forum to withdraw International Ship and Port Safety (ISPS). In this regard a proposal had been sent to the ministry around two years back,” he added. Speaking of the sector’s inclusion in the curriculum, the Navy Chief said the maritime sector could not be explored without including the subject in the curriculum. “A subject will be introduced in the Bahria University. In the next phase a Maritime University will be established,” he added.

On a question, he said if Gwadar Port was established in 1970s Pakistan’s economy would have been better.

Admiral Abbasi said Pakistan Navy would also establish a Maritime Works Organisation. “At present there is no concept of offshore exploration in Pakistan. Through joint ventures, Pakistan will become self sufficient in this area,” the Naval chief added.

He lauded the government for approving the setting up of the country’s second shipyard at Gwadar. He said this shipyard would have the capability to build up to 0.6 million tons capacity ships.

Earlier, Commodore Abdul Muneeb, Assistant Naval Chief (Operations) presented a detailed report on the potential in the maritime sector. He said arms had been purchased from the foreign markets through the Ministry of Defence on which huge foreign exchange was being spent. In this regard, the Ministry of Defence has planned to produce 40 percent of defence related instruments locally. He said the local industry could help the navy.

Commodore Muneeb said there was immense potential to improve fish catch in Pakistani waters. Presently Indian exports of fish products were around $3 billion. In contrast Pakistan achieved only $300 million.

He said about $4-5 billion annually was spent on foreign ships, which could be saved through reinvigorating the local shipping lines. He said with the initiation of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) about $350 billon trade movements across Pakistani waters was expected. He said there were potentials in tourism, alternate energy and shipbuilding sectors.

KCCI president Muffasir Ata Malik, in his welcome address, appreciated that Pakistan Navy was currently undergoing extensive modernisation and expansion as part of Pakistan's role in the War on Terror. “Since 2001, Pakistan Navy has increased and expanded its operational scope and has been given greater national and international responsibility in countering the threat of sea-based global terrorism, drug smuggling and trafficking issues,” he said. He said the chamber believed that it was now even more important to have a secure maritime environment in context of CPEC.