As a key stakeholder, the Pakistan Navy is fostering maritime thought throughout the country in order to raise awareness of the untapped potential of our Blue Economy. In order to support efforts to promote the Blue Economy, the Pakistan Navy will hold a “Pakistan International Maritime Expo and Conference” (PIMEC) in conjunction with the Pakistan Navy’s AMAN series, under the patronage of the Ministry of Maritime Affairs (MoMA).
Geography is the hinge of maritime approach and countries with availability of open seas are naturally at an advantage. The location of Pakistan provides it a strategic benefit in carrying transit trade for non-coastal Central Asian countries and Afghanistan. Pakistan is a maritime state with a lengthy coastline of almost 1050 km and the Exclusive Economic Zone of around 240,000 sq. km. The country has God-gifted extended coastline, harbors, plentiful marine resources and open sea routes.
Almost 40,000 Pakistani citizens are directly or indirectly attached with fishing industry providing a huge workforce for exploitation of these resources. Despite vast fish export potential, Pakistan’s fishing sector only contributes 0.4% percent to country’s GDP. This again signifies how little we are growing despite having immense potential in this realm which in turn is hampering our growth prospects in the long run.
Moreover, the concept of “blue economy” developed at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012. Main discussion in this conference revolved around two themes: continued development and improvement of the institutional framework to achieve Sustained Development and the amplification of the “green economy” scheme. In this meeting, major challenge highlighted was poverty eradication and green economy was considered as a tool to attain this objective as well as sustainable development.
Blue Economy aims to boost economic growth, social inclusion, and raise people’s living standards while maintaining sustainability. It includes hydrocarbon extraction, seabed mining, marine biotechnology, fisheries, and marine tourism, as well as growing sectors such as offshore renewable energy, shipbuilding and ship repairs, and aquaculture. Coastal development, shipping, and port infrastructure are also included in the Blue Economy concept.
World economists have estimated an asset value of $24 trillion to the Blue Economy and as of now it’s delivering something between $500-600 billion each year in terms of the dividend to humanity. However, understanding and effectively managing the many components of marine sustainability, ranging from fisheries to ecosystem health to pollution, is a key problem of the Blue Economy.
In addition, during the 1970s, Pakistan’s shipbreaking sector operating in Gadani, was one of the largest in the world, but it is now ranked third after India and Bangladesh. If this industry is revived back and utilized to its full potential, it can have the capacity to contribute more than $10 million to GDP annually.
Coastal tourism is another major sector that has great promise. Tourists from all over the world are drawn to beautiful regions, particularly seashores with diverse wildlife and appealing beaches. In case of Pakistan, the coastal tourism only contributes around $0.3 billion despite having a $4 billion potential. Another indictment for Pakistan is our ranking on the “Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report” published by the World Economic Forum, which places Pakistan at an abysmal 121st position out of 140 countries. In terms of travel and tourism, it remains the least competitive country in South Asia.
Furthermore, CPEC has given the opportunity to jumpstart the maritime sector. The economics around Gwadar port are incredibly important, and close attention needs to be paid. Gwadar, by transshipment alone, has the potential to revolutionize Pakistan’s economy.
Unfortunately, Pakistan is experiencing difficulties to optimally utilize its sea resources. Lack of attention has caused hindrance in the development of maritime sector of the country which ultimately affected the economic growth and national security. Moreover, drop in national marine for trade has forced Pakistan to rely on foreign transporters for international trade.
The main impediments to the development of the country’s maritime sector are a lack of maritime awareness and a vision to look to the seas. To fill this void, the Pakistan Navy will host PIMEC for the first time under the auspices of the MoMA, bringing together stakeholders and diverse Maritime industries on one platform to explore joint ventures and investment opportunities, as a large number of trade and industry visitors, including those from abroad, will be invited to the show.
Proceeding with this, the soft launch of the PIMEC series is going to be hosted in Islamabad on 26 July and the major event of PIMEC will be conducted regularly from the next year alongside Pakistan Navy’s multi-lateral exercise series, AMAN.