Cargo handling activities at Karachi Port Trust (KPT) and Port Qasim Authority (PQA) recorded an impressive growth of 25 per cent and 13.72pc in FY21 owing to 18pc and 26pc rise in the country’s exports and imports, respectively.
According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), exports in FY21 soared to $25.3 billion from $22bn in FY20 while imports stood at $56bn as against $44.5bn in FY20, thus keeping goods movement at twin ports alive amid issues like lockdown, port congestion, higher freight charges, etc all over the world.
A senior maritime official said despite Covid-related challenges, Pakistan’s trade remained progressive on the back of their achievement with an initiative of imposing smart lockdowns and keeping logistics moving.
On the other hand, all Pakistani ports ensured business continuity and alleviate the pandemic impact on the maritime sector. However, the downside was the traditional ports facing congestion and efficiency issues in delivery service to the end-users and increase cost to shipping lines, whereas Hutchison Ports Pakistan (HPP), the only deep water container port, remained productive with its cutting-edge technology and modern infrastructure.
This has helped other terminals and trade in reducing congestion impact by handling the extra vessel calls at HPP.
He said soaring freights were related more to logistics imbalance due to container shortages, skip port calls by the shipping lines, reduction of vessel capacity and partial closure of major ports around the world. This has ultimately increased trade due to increase in exports from Pakistan on the back of importing raw material, machinery items etc to meet the demand.
He said till 3QFY21 the country was also affected by lockdowns, but port cargo handling picked up momentum from the fourth quarter after local situation improved and exports to the US, EU and China had recorded significant increases, he added.
Since then, he said, Pakistan has started receiving substantial orders of textile and other value-added items, whereas other regional countries notably India, Bangladesh, Thailand and Sri Lanka were endeavouring to curb Covid infection rate by strict lock downs.
A KPT official said the total cargo handling grew substantially to 52.279 million tonnes in FY21 from 41.840m tonnes in FY20.
In imports, total volume stood at 36.469m tonnes in FY21 as compared to 27.206m tonnes in FY20. The share of total dry cargo went up by 36.53pc to 24.670m tonnes in FY21 from 18.069m tonnes in FY20 in which dry general cargo and dry bulk cargo volume stood at 18.170mn tonnes and 6.5m tonnes as compared to 15.358m tonnes and 2.711m tonnes, up by 18pc and 140pc over FY20. Total liquid bulk import cargo handling grew by 29pc to 11.799m tonnes from 9.137m tonnes in 2019-20.
In exports, KPT’s total cargo volume improved by 8pc to 15.810m tonnes from 14.634m tonnes which included 9.689m tonnes of dry general cargo and 5.584m tonnes of dry bulk cargo during 2020-21 as compared to 8.841m tonnes and 5.130m tonnes in 2019-20. The volume of liquid bulk export cargo fell by 19pc to 0.537m tonnes from 0.663m tonnes.
A 15.34pc rise was registered in container handling in twenty-foot equivalents (TEUs) to 2.988m tonnes from 1.992m tonnes. Out of the above figures, the number of import TEUs was 1.155m in 2020-21 as against 1.001m TEUs in 2019-20. Export TEUs stood at 1.142m versus 0.991m in 2019-20.
Arrival of ships at the KPT increased by 21.5pc to 1,813 ship from 1,492 in FY20. Out of total ship movement, number of container ship rose by 17pc to 869 from 743 followed by 61.5pc rise in bulk cargo ship to 281 from 174, five per cent rise in general cargo ship to 169 from 161 and 19pc hike in oil tankers to 494 from 414 ship in FY20.
Meanwhile, cargo handling activities at the Port Qasim also swelled to 58m tonnes in 2020-21 versus 51m tonnes in 2019-20. In 2016-17, total cargo handling was 37.3m tonnes. As per data available at PQA’s website, arrival of ships at the PQA rose to 1,709 in FY21 from 1,520.
With increasing exports orders, improving economic indicators, imports of automotive, spare parts, machinery, food items and raw material, Pakistani port handling improved significantly. During FY21, Pakistan was also able to achieve its largest ever exports of $25bn largely contributed by value-added items to US, EU, UK and China, he said.
Pakistan exports during the first month of FY22 posted a year-on-year highest-ever growth of 17.3pc to $2.34 billion. Considering this achievement along with an ambitious plan of achieving $38.7bn to $40bn exports during FY22, the government has extended the duty-free import regime to more raw materials.
Imports also swelled during past couple of months, which although put a negative mark on current account, however this has increased port handling. Land route trade agreements with CARs is also expected to increase Pakistan ports cargoes, he hoped.
“With these developments, Pakistani port handling during FY22 is expected to remain brisk,” the maritime official added. Pakistan’s import in July went up by a whooping 52pc to $5.6bn from $3.67bn in July 2020.