First Pakistan International Maritime Expo and Tenth IMC

The first Pakistan International Maritime Expo and the tenth International Maritime Conference (IMC-23) are being conducted from 10 to 12 Feb 23 at Expo Center Karachi by the Navy and NIMA respectively. The Expo is considered an ideal platform to showcase various products, systems and services to facilitate business partnerships. It has provided opportunities to maritime industry to display products at one forum and interact directly with International Maritime Industry. It would certainly prove  to be instrumental to accelerate the development of maritime sector of Pakistan. The Naval headquarters under the able guidance of the Chief of the Naval Staff who is also the Chief Technical Advisor on Maritime Affairs to the government of Pakistan, has adopted a comprehensive Maritime Awareness Campaign. The National Center for Maritime Policy Research (NCMPR)was established in 2006 which has graduated to National Institute of Maritime Research (NIMA) a think tank based in Islamabad which has a constituent unit at Karachi to serve as a focal point for multidisciplinary maritime research. Also, to act as a national resource for policy advice on maritime affairs to the concerned authorities and stake holders. NIMA regularly conducts seminars, workshops and conferences. International Maritime Conference (IMC) and International Maritime Symposium (IMS) are conducted biennially. Last IMS was conducted at Islamabad in Dec 2022 in which maritime experts from home and abroad delivered talk which was attended by the galaxy of maritime experts from all segment of the society especially academia, think tanks and university students.

               The topic of the tenth IMC is “Embracing Blue Economy – Challenges and Opportunities for Developing Countries”. It focusses on the important aspect that geo-strategic environment and regional politics are greatly influenced by economic interests. Economic prosperity has direct linkage with sustained exploitation of natural resources under a secure environment. Eminent speakers expert in maritime sectors, security and International relations from home and abroad have been invited to deliver talk on the latest trends and scientific approach to various challenges related to maritime industry. These include, Ms Hina Rabbani Khar, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr Moeed Yusuf, former Security Advisor and author of the “National Security Policy of Pakistan 2022- 2026. Prominent amongst the International speakers are Mr. Gunter Pauli, Blue Economy Expert, who is most widely known for his book” The Blue Economy”, which he wrote in 2010, and introduced the term Blue Economy proposing a new type of business model. Dr. Christian Bueger from UK, Dr. Jian Ling – Chair Professor of Southern University of Science & Technology, China, and Member of Academia Europaea. Invitation has been extended to all segments of the society including academia, think tanks, maritime experts, diplomats, university students and media.

               The Oceans cover 71 percent of Earth Surface and are of huge importance in terms of resources, environment & conservation, trade & industry, marine sciences and leisure activities. These are also main source of protein for more than a billion people around the world and are key to the world economy with an estimated 40 million people being employed by ocean-based industries. An average 28% of world energy source is from off shore. Another important aspect is Deep Seabed Mining (DSM) to collect metal-rich resources from the deep seafloor. Oceans are the cheapest medium for transportation.  The significance of the seas (AL Behar) has been stated in the Holy Quran 41 times. It has mostly been emphasized, for sea food, extraction of resources from sea and for means of transportation. Pakistan has 1001 KM plus coast having 240,000 square KM Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and 50,000 square KM Continental shelf at its disposal to derive economic benefits. It has three ports which apart for handling import / export of Pakistan have the potential to be used for transit trade of land locked countries, Afghanistan, CAR states and western China. Gwadar has right location to operate as a transshipment hub. Under the provision of UN liner code 1974, Pakistani ships can lift 40% of import / export by volume, this allowable percentage can go up to 60%.  This rule was introduced by UN to improve the shipping industries of developing countries. PNSC has 13 flag carrier which lift around 12 % capacity, the remaining is done by foreign flag carriers which can be increased to save 4.0 Bn USD foreign exchange which is need of hour. Similarly, other component of the Blue Economy needs to be given serious consideration by the government and relevant authorities to improve economy. To protect the maritime assets, and sea lines of communications which are considered life line of the country need credible maritime security apparatus. The development and operational strategies are being continuously evaluated and updated by the concerned maritime security apparatus. 

               To harness maritime resources, marine technology is being modernized rapidly. Survey vessels equipped to locate, analyze and mapping the sea bed with the trained scientists and operators are essential. To explore the seabed, sophisticated sonars and cameras are being developed. There is a lot of advancement in diving equipment to search the seabed and other underwater operations. In the shipping sector, ships as big as 500,000 tones dead weight, of various categories are being built having deep draft. For cargo handling, ports need state of the art cranes, trained and efficient personnel. It is pertinent to mention that countries which have given due importance to maritime sector especially development of ports, shipping industries, and shipping lines have improved their economy tremendously. China, Republic of Korea and Japan have concentrated on their shipbuilding industry.  In 2021, these three economies accounted for 94 per cent of shipbuilding in terms of gross tonnage. Amongst the top five largest ports in terms of cargo handling, four are of China and the  second biggest is of Singapore. In the shipping sector, even land locked countries have ocean going shipping companies like Switzerland and Ethiopia. However, the sea food is being depleted at a fast pace due to its unbridled exploitation especially by developing countries.   In Pakistan fishing is being carried out even during breeding season. The rules and regulations need to be implemented in letter and spirit to stop this tendency. Pollution at sea and in ports is also a serious issue in the developing countries including Pakistan. This also needs focused attention by the concerned authorities. However, the situation has improved by the concerted efforts of the Navy by planting mangroves. These maritime activities coupled with effects of climate change are adversely affecting the marine eco-system leading to serious environmental concerns requiring pro-active planning and preparations. To reduce the effects of pollution the Holy Prophet (PBUH), about 1445 years ago restricted the cutting of trees even in the battle areas.

               To conclude Pakistan International Maritime Expo and Conference (PIMEC) is a distinct event, organized by the Navy and NIMA, at the Expo Center Karachi. The Expo will help in establishing sustainable, economically viable and mutually beneficial business relationships between regional and extra regional maritime stake holders. It is expected that the B2B/B2G dialogues will also help to bridge the existing gaps and facilitate ease of business for the entrepreneurs.  The IMC will generate healthy discussions to highlight the challenges being faced by the developing countries, such as keeping pace with the rapid technological development in maritime field, over fishing, pollution, protection of coral reefs, shipping and ship recycling etc.  Also, avenues to enhance the economy by exploiting ocean resources will be deliberated and proposals for way forward will be finalized.

Dr. Anjum Sarfraz
Dr. Anjum Sarfraz
the author is Cdre (retd) former Senior Research Fellow, at NIMA And SVI Islamabad