Islamabad,28 August 2023 (TDI): The most recent policy brief on “Harnessing the Blue” from UNDP Pakistan was authored by Vice Admiral Iftikhar Ahmed Rao (Retd), who serves as the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Maritime Affairs.

The Policy Brief underscores how Pakistan can leverage the opportunities within the Blue Economy to generate employment, reduce poverty, and gain access to developmental financing that enhances resilience.

Pakistan’s extensive coastline spanning 1050 kilometers offers economic opportunities, including biodiversity, hydrocarbons, rare minerals, and diverse fisheries. Currently, the blue economy contributes just 0.5% to Pakistan’s GDP.

Key strengths include a labor-intensive workforce, a strategic location at the mouth of the Gulf facilitating significant oil and maritime trade passage, and a deep-sea coastline.

Also Read: Utilizing Pakistan’s Blue Economy for Economic Transformation

In terms of shipping, the Pakistan National Shipping Corporation (PNSC) stands as the sole shipping company in Pakistan, operating 128 ships.

However, challenges persist, including a shortage of ships, limited private sector involvement, and a lack of awareness at the decision-making level.

The national ship lifting capacity stands at only 10%, leaving a substantial gap of 90%. Furthermore, the annual freight bill in Pakistan amounts to $5 billion.

Regarding seafarers, there is a global demand for Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for Seafarer (STCW) certified officers.

Pakistan has previously supplied trained seafarers; however, due to inadequate training and management, this supply has dwindled over time. Addressing the need for essential training can bolster the supply of skilled seafarers to meet the rising global demand.

Challenges in this regard include labor availability, insufficient training facilities, complex and outdated regulations and procedures, and bureaucratic hurdles for seafarers.

Pakistan possesses three ports with surplus capacity. Despite the significant Afghan trade, these ports operate at less than 50% occupancy.

There is a pressing need for innovation, strategic planning, and policy implementation to enhance the efficiency and utilization of these ports.

Collaborating with international organizations to establish a master plan for ports is crucial for improved coordination and effectiveness.

The blue economy represents a diverse and dynamic sector with significant economic, environmental, and societal implications.

It holds the promise of growth, innovation, and improved livelihoods, but its responsible management is crucial for the well-being of both current and future generations.