no comments

Proposed sell-off of PQ berths opposed

MULTAN: The proposed privatisation of two berths available for handling of oilseeds and bulk grain at Port Qasim will adversely affect production of edible oil and ghee in the country, Dawn has learnt.

The government has decided to privatise the berths for the import of coal, but the All-Pakistan Solvent Exporters Association (APSEA) has taken exception to the proposal. APSEA Vice Chairman Shakil Ashfaq in a letter to the Federal Minister for Ports and Shipping, Kamran Michael, on May 6 draw the attention of the minister towards the issue which, he said, would scale up cost of doing business for ghee and poultry feed industry.

He stated that the association supports growth in local oilseed crops, but the fact is that currently demand is higher than supply.

“We have witnessed significant growth in oilseed import volume in the last four years, while oilseed import averaged around one million metric tonnes until 2013. It grew to 1.2 million tonnes in 2014 and 1.42 million tonnes in 2015, current year’s import volume is expected to rise to 1.8 million metric tonnes,” he said in the letter.

He said that the Port Qasim holds major share in oilseed cargo handling as in 2015 only 48,000 metric tonnes were handled at the Karachi Port Trust (KPT) out of the total import of 1.42 million metric tonnes translating to a share of less than four per cent.

“At Port Qasim, Marginal Wharves 3 and 4 are being privatised for exclusive use of coal import. This is in addition to dedicated Pakistan International Bulk Terminal (PIBT) at Port Qasim, which has an annual coal-handling capacity of around 1.2 million metric tonnes in phase-I and subsequently to be increased to 1.8 million metric tonnes in phase-II. Add to this coal handling capacity of the KPT. This will be more than adequate capacity for handling coal import volumes to fulfil the energy requirements of the country,” he added.

He said that the both Marginal Wharves are the only berths for handling of oilseeds and bulk grain cargo besides Fauji Akbar Portia Terminal (FAP) which has very limited storage capacity and will not be able to handle the rapidly increasing oilseeds and grain volume while dedicating these berths for coal import will leave FAP as only option for oilseeds and bulk grain vessels.

“And if FAP is choked or shut down, oilseeds cargo handling would be suspended causing distress in 20 solvent extraction units located in the vicinity of Port Qasim, established for convenient logistics,” he said.

He requested the government that privatisation of these berths should not be allowed.

APSEA executive members feared large-scale retrenchment, if the industry comes in distress. It could also lead to rise in prices of oil/ghee.