I have already mentioned about first phase of port Qasim project. On my return from Karachi fish harbour I was happy to note that all components of the project were completed and the port was operational and in full swing. This port was envisaged to be managed through landlord concept whereby the essential hard core was to be provided by public sector, and private sector entrepreneurs were to run the port through competitive and efficient operational handling techniques. Privatization was the name of the game and order of the day and port Qasim was the right place to have a go at it.
The first private sector project brought on mainstream was FOTCO oil terminal (Fauji Oil Terminal Company, Sponsored by Fauji Foundation a subsidiary of Pakistan army). The terminal with annual handling capacity of 9 million tons of oil was commissioned in 1995.
Yet another first of its kind, and keeping in view the growing requirements of petro-chemical industries established around port area, an agreement was signed with M/s Engro Vopak Terminals Limited (EVTL), a joint venture of Engro and a Dutch company to build a dedicated liquid cargo terminal. The state-of-art facilities were provided with emphasis on “safety first” to such a degree that foreign investors were attracted to come here to learn the latest techniques.
Maritime trade was in the grip of containerization of cargo as the container revolution had brought about speedy movement of cargo from its origin to destination. Coupled with computerization of entire process leaving very little to human error and judgment, the cargo which used to take months was to reach within days. Port Qasim again took the lead and developed a dedicated container terminal by conversion of its existing three multipurpose berths. This terminal known as QICT (Qasim International Container Terminal) awarded to an Australian company P&O Australia, was commissioned in 1997.
The ball was set rolling for private sector to play its vital role in national development. Karachi port followed suit and port Qasim also continued its zest for expansion of port facilities. I am showering praise for port Qasim not because I am part of it, but compared to congestion at Karachi port, the location of port Qasim and vast hinterland available for setting up of port-based industries, it offers ample room for expansion of port facilities. In view of a 45-kilometer-long navigation channel which consumes chunk of annual budget to maintain permissible draught, the port becomes more economically viable if we are able to increase port facilities, and in turn increase the number of ships calling at the port.