The maritime sector is the main artery of the Pakistani economy since more than 90% of our trade is carried out by sea. We have enormous maritime potential and our economic power is linked to the maritime sector. However, this awareness is not yet permeated into our national calculation and business processes. As a major stakeholder, the Pakistan Navy is shaping maritime thinking across the country to create awareness needed to harness the untapped potential of our blue economy. In order to support efforts to promote blue economy, Pakistan Navy, under the patronage of the Ministry of Maritime Affairs (MoMA), will organize a “Pakistan International Maritime Expo and Conference” (PIMEC) in tandem with the AMAN series of Pakistan Navy.
The blue economy seeks to improve economic growth, social inclusion and is committed to raising the standard of living of people while ensuring sustainability. It includes ocean industries of hydrocarbon extraction, seabed mining, marine biotechnology, fishing and marine tourism as well as emerging industries such as offshore renewable energy, shipbuilding and ship repair. and aquaculture. Coastal development, shipping and port infrastructure are also part of the blue economy concept. Global economists have estimated an asset value of $24 trillion to the blue economy, and currently it yields something between $500 billion and $600 billion every year in terms of a dividend for humanity. However, an important challenge of the blue economy is to understand and better manage the many aspects of ocean sustainability, ranging from fisheries to ecosystem health to pollution.
Pakistan is blessed with over 1,000 km of coastline and 290,000 km2 of exclusive economic zone (EEZ) plus a continental shelf which is larger than the combined area of Punjab and KPK. Pakistan’s maritime sector is financially and technologically intensive and requires substantial investment to build, operate and make it economically profitable. Its current maritime revenue projection stands at $183 million, which is far behind our neighbors, including India and Bangladesh, whose estimated projections stand at $5.6 billion and $6 billion, respectively. Coastal areas of Pakistan are rich in bio-productivity and biodiversity as they provide huge breeding grounds for commercially important fisheries including carbs and prawns with a potential resource worth over $2 billion. dollars per year. Nearly 40,000 Pakistani citizens are directly or indirectly linked to the fishing industry providing a huge workforce for the exploitation of these resources. Despite vast fish export potential, Pakistan’s fisheries sector contributes only 0.4% to the country’s GDP. This again signifies how little we are growing despite having immense potential in this area, which in turn hinders our long-term growth prospects.
Furthermore, Pakistan’s shipbreaking industry, namely Gadani, was one of the largest shipbreaking industries in the world in the 1970s, but now ranks third after India and the Bangladesh. If this industry is revived and utilized to its full potential, it may have the capacity to contribute over $10 million to GDP per year. Another very important and very promising industry is coastal tourism. Tourists from all over the world are attracted to beautiful places, especially sea coasts with vast biodiversity and attractive beaches. As far as Pakistan is concerned, coastal tourism brings in only about 0.3 billion dollars despite a potential of 4 billion dollars. Another indictment for Pakistan is our ranking on the “Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report” published by the World Economic Forum, which places Pakistan at an abysmal position of 121st out of 140 countries. It remains the least competitive country in all of South Asia when it comes to travel and tourism.
In addition, the advent of CPEC provided us with the opportunity to relaunch the maritime sector. The economy surrounding the Port of Gwadar plays an important role and it is extremely relevant that we as a nation and policy makers pay close attention. Gwadar can play a key role in transforming Pakistan’s economy through transhipment alone. In the annals of history, it has been realized that sea transport is the cheapest mode of transport. Today, 80% of the world’s volume of goods is transported by sea, which represents around 10 billion tonnes. Pakistan in this area can play a very important role which can help harness its broken economy. The encouraging aspect for Pakistan is the high Liner Shipping Connectivity Index (LSCI). LSCI stands for the quality of connectivity between ships and ports around the world. Pakistan stands at 34.06 points, which is a healthy number and better than Bangladesh, but behind India which stands at around 54. China leads the race with an index of 151.91. This is where Pakistan should reap the benefits and develop its transshipment industry and expand its operations. Given the additional distance ships have to travel to reach the Gulf countries from the Indian Ocean, Gwadar therefore has the potential to become a full-fledged regional hub and transhipment port in the future. Shifting maritime traffic from Dubai to Gwadar could make it one of the top 5 transshipment hubs in the world. The UAE handles over 21 million TEUs (20 tonne equivalent units) each year. It signifies the opportunity in Gwadar. Being a tax free port coupled with the absence of port congestion, after comprehensive development, Gwadar can leverage these points for profit.
For multi-faceted reasons, the true potential of the blue economy could not be fully exploited so far. The main obstacles to the development of the country’s maritime sector are the lack of maritime awareness and vision to look to the seas. To increase this gap, Pakistan Navy is going to host PIMEC for the first time under the patronage of MoMA to bring together stakeholders and various maritime industries on one platform to explore joint ventures and investment opportunities, as a large number of trade and industrial visitors, including those from abroad will be invited to the show. This event was considered taking into account the general lack of awareness and the lack of precedent for conducting such an event in Pakistan. In this regard, various international exhibits were reviewed and consulted. Among the major international events analyzed are China Maritime Economy Expo, Myanmar Marine Expo, Asia Pacific Maritime (Singapore) and Euro Maritime Expo (France).
Initiating this milestone, the soft launch of the PIMEC series will be held in Islamabad on July 26 and the major PIMEC event will be held regularly from next year alongside the Pakistan Navy’s series of multilateral exercises, AMAN . This event will eventually help provide opportunities for the marine industry to display products at a forum and interact directly with their international counterparts. In addition, PIMEC will give impetus to Pakistan’s maritime and defense industries to establish joint ventures with international marine and defense manufacturers. It will also further highlight the country’s maritime potential and project the country’s image as a maritime nation contributing to peace and stability.