Century of blue economy and Massive blue potential of Pakistan


The brave blue world is a an insightful documentary that portrays a realistic picture of how mankind is embracing innovative technological procedures, to reassess the management of water resources. There are 7.837 billion people living on Earth, 1.1 billion of whom on a global scale, lack access to clean water and a total of 2.7 billion find water scarce. The question arises; Why the entire world despite running against the clocks is failing, in terms of alleviating these issues? Many states are endeavoring to claw their way out of the situation and resolve the crisis, but this is only deepening the problems. The water crisis is not an acute problem for the developing nations only, it has already begun to jolt out everyone, everywhere. We all know that there is no close substitute for water therefore, World’s massive blue potential needs to be utilized efficiently for a sustainable shared future. Oceans are a great unifier that links up all the countries. The value added by oceans to the global economy is estimated by the OECD to be $1.5 trillion yearly, with a potential increase to $3 trillion by 2030.

One of the most significant international marine routes links Europe and the Far East through the Indian Ocean. It transports the majority of the ultra-large containerships as it travels across the South China Sea, Strait of Malacca, Indian Ocean, Red Sea, Suez Canal, and Mediterranean until Atlantic. The nautical pathways of the ocean are essential for the global supply of energy. Nearly 40% of the world’s energy is thought to be transferred via its waterways from the Persian Gulf to Europe and Asia.

Blue economy; an offshoot of green economy:

Blue Economy is an appendage of the green economy. The green economy particularly focused on the sectors like energy, transport, agriculture, and forestry. Conversely, the blue economy emphasizes on harnessing ocean resources sustainably to generate employment, boost livelihoods, and spur economic growth while maintaining the health of the ocean ecosystem. To put it simply, the blue economy is increasingly becoming a pivotal policy discourse. Hence, an alarming protection is required towards the vulnerable ocean places. The immense ocean’s capital is a huge source of resources, best serving humanity’s interests economically and environmentally. Perhaps, the National Maritime policy despite all the internal and external obstacles must prioritize and accord the securitization of the blue economy. Scientists, researchers, and civil society have apprised exploration before exploitation for pursuing and maintaining societal and broader climatic goals. Given that, the blue economy is touted as the panacea to numerous economic woes faced by less developed coastal countries. Pakistan, a maritime state and one of the developing countries, has endorsed and incorporated the SDGs into its national development plans. Indian ocean is bordered to the north by Iran, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh; to the east by the Malay Peninsula; to the south by the Southern Ocean; and to the west by Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Many multilateral organizations in our region, including SAARC, APEC, the East Asia Summit, and the Indian Ocean Rim Association, are working to create supportive strategies and action plans for the sustainable development of marine resources. China has taken its One Belt, One Road program a step further and launched Five Years Development Plans for National Marine Economy, which regularly assesses the development of several marine industries.

Gwadar’s ability to become a smart port city:

With its ports in Karachi, Qasim, and Gwadar, Pakistan, a prominent coastal state in the middle of the Indian Ocean, conducts more than 95% of its trade by sea. In addition, Pakistan makes the most of its 290 000 sq km Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf for a variety of activities such as fishing, mining, exploration, and marine research. Every day, almost 15 million barrels of crude oil are transported from the Gulf States to Pakistan via the Persian Gulf. In addition, Pakistan provides the quickest maritime access to China, Afghanistan, and the Central Asian States. This emphasizes the geo-strategic and geo-military significance of Pakistan as well as the potential of its maritime economy. A fully committed development toward a common future is being established as a result of Pakistan and China’s everlasting friendship. Balochistan is developing through Gwadar Port despite the obstacles posed by CPEC’s skeptics. The western coast of Pakistan is crucial from a strategic perspective because of sea lines of communications (SLOCs) approaching from the Gulf of Aden and the Persian Gulf nearing Gwadar, Karachi, and beyond. As a matter of fact, Gwadar is pivotal for both China’s Belt and Road Initiative and the economic growth of Pakistan. Gwadar thus has the ability to expand into a smart port city.

Complacency and inaction decimated these sectors:

Pakistan’s current maritime revenue projection stands at 183 million dollars which is far less than that of Bangladesh and India. Pakistan’s early years were marked by a significant emphasis on development. In the 1960s, one of the most lucrative primary industries were agriculture, followed by livestock and fisheries. Later, we lost our way. Although some ascribe this to nationalization, I believe that “complacency and inaction decimated these sectors.” The sector’s officials, for whatever reason, failed to recognize the potential of advancement. The tertiary sector thus started to grow relatively soon. Fishermen in the coastal area of Pakistan still continue to practice conventional methods. In 2020, blue economy gained prominent importance and was referred as “The year of a Blue Economy”. The government of Pakistan did the right thing by reforming the Merchant Marine Policy, of 2001. The modified policy offers a broad array of financial incentives to private investors, including the right of first berthing for carriers, a margin tonnage tax, the approval of freight rates in Pakistani rupees instead of US dollars, and a long-term loan facility.

Maritime ecosystems contributing towards global tourism:

Who hasn’t fantasized about vacationing on a pacific island, gazing at the medieval ports, discovering the enigmatic seabed, and breathing in the magnificent mangroves? A whole economic structure known as the blue economy is hidden behind this enchanting postcard picture. Marine ecosystems promote up to 11.5 billion USD to global tourism. Over and above that, it serves to preserve our coasts from natural disasters like storms and floods, bestowing habitat for biodiversity. With regard to the global economy, approximately 90 percent of all traded goods are shipped by sea, internationally. Furthermore, the market value of marine and coastal resources and industries is estimated at US$3 trillion per year. Hence, biodiversity-based tourism opportunities can be developed to explore an eco-tourism in the coastal belt of Pakistan. Pakistan Institute of Development Economics implies that Pakistan has a potential for sustainable yearly growth of 8%. Pakistan, the fifth-most populous economy in the world with a population growth rate of about 2%, may experience unstable food security issues in the future. Due to the lack of financing, extending the economy beyond land-based avenues of development is extremely challenging in the post-COVID-19 era, but paradoxically, it is nevertheless a considerable alternative for Pakistan’s economy to flourish. After years of negligence, the government of Pakistan is now, to some extent, paying attention to the maritime industry. According to estimates, our fishery business has an untapped export market for seafood worth $US 2 billion. Utilizing this potential can boost the economy, especially in Pakistan’s underdeveloped coastal region. If we want to become a rising economic force in Asia in the coming decades, we will need to give our maritime sector more attention, particularly in areas like shipbuilding, fleet expansion, and port infrastructure improvements that will allow us to dock modern ships with much larger cargo carrying capacities, as is being done in some of our neighbors.

Development of Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships:

Pakistan is overburdened by technological gaps. Therefore, the Ports of Pakistan have no advanced capacity to handle cargo. All around the world, the shipping industry is evolving towards the development of Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS). Whereas, Pakistan is still operating its existing seaports manually which too requires a swift upgradation. It is the need of the hour for Pakistan to collaborate with the countries that have pursued the development of future-ready seaports. In the future, friendly and competitive sea ports could accommodate autonomous vessels and ships. 

In contrast to our neighbors, Pakistan has made little progress towards sustainability despite its reasonable efforts. Currently, Bangladesh’s maritime resources and tourism make up a remarkable portion of its GDP. On the other hand, Pakistan’s virgin beaches hinder its ability to attract both domestic and international investors. India has surpassed other nations in the shipbreaking business and is building a rim road that will link all of its ports.

New Industrial Revolution:

Worldwide, a new industrial revolution is being unfolded in our seas. Pakistan would be directly impacted by the blue economy on a social, economic, and environmental level. It will socially pull up the community’s marginalized groups, notably women and young people. Shared prosperity and inclusive economic growth would be made possible by the revolutionary prospects across numerous sectors. The maritime sector in Pakistan has enormous growth potential, but it requires regulatory frameworks and significant expansion to become a reality. Pakistan’s geographic strategic location gives it a critical or central role in the shifting dynamics of the Indian Ocean. If used, this potential may turn Pakistan’s expansive marine zone into a regional hub for the blue economy. Successful blue growth demands a strong political commitment to be accomplished.


Beyond shadow of a doubt, developing countries like Pakistan can no longer afford to turn a blind eye on its blue potential. It is time to think global and act local. A collaborative framework must be ensured with a range of stakeholders comprised of the federal government, global businesses, nongovernmental organizations, and local communities. All must work collectively from inception to completion. Few nations have the access to resources that Pakistan does, but unfortunately, because of sea blindness, we have completely disregarded these treasures. It has been a sore point for a while now that Pakistan’s 1046 km of coastline, which has tremendous blue potential, has remained untapped. A massive mobilization of people is required, who care about a shared future. The utilization of one of the most fundamental types of natural capital is inextricably linked to human prosperity. Pakistan’s coastal area potential will be adequately addressed if the focus is made on wholesome blue economy growth. Consequently, by formulating sustainable policies and strategies, oceans and coastal areas would not be seen as vast and empty wilderness.

Arshia Shakeel
Arshia Shakeel
Arshia Shakeel, a student of Government and Public Policy at National Defense University, Islamabad


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