Dubai and Pakistan to develop freight corridor and economic zone

DP World will undertake infrastructure improvements at Qasim International Container Terminal

Shahid Ashraf Tarar, Pakistan’s Federal Minister of Communication, Railways and Maritime Affairs, left, and Sultan bin Sulayem, chairman of Dubai's Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation, sign agreements at Davos, Switzerland. Photo: DP World
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The governments of Dubai and Pakistan have agreed to jointly develop maritime and logistics projects, including a rail corridor through Karachi, infrastructure upgrades at Qasim Port and an economic zone near the terminal.

State-owned ports operator DP World will act on behalf of the Dubai government, while state-run Pakistan Railways and Port Qasim Authority will act on behalf of the Pakistan government to develop the projects, the UAE company said in a statement on Thursday.

“Pakistan is a growing market, and an important trade corridor to Central Asia,” said Sultan bin Sulayem, chairman of Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation and group chairman and chief executive of DP World.

The company will “work with various Pakistani government organisations to develop new freight systems and with Port Qasim Authority to enhance port connectivity and investment”, he added.

The inter-government framework agreements signed during the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, underscore “the importance of Pakistan as gateway to Asia and the commercial dividends associated with its strategic location”, said Shahid Ashraf Tarar, Pakistan's Federal Minister of Communication, Railways and Maritime Affairs.

Pakistan's economy is expected to grow 2 per cent in 2024, compared to a contraction of 0.2 per cent in 2023, according to International Monetary Fund data.

On January 11, the IMF said its executive board approved the immediate disbursement of a $700 million loan to Pakistan following a review of the country's economic reform programme.

Dubai and Pakistan's inter-governmental framework agreements cover co-operation on the development of a dedicated freight corridor, a multi-modal logistics park and freight terminals.

A railway is planned to run from Karachi Port on the Arabian Sea, passing through Karachi, Pakistan’s most populated city, to the Pipri Marshalling Yard, about 45 kilometres away.

“This will improve efficiency, transport times and reduce the overall cost of logistics,” according to the statement.

Lahore-based Pakistan Railways is the country's national rail company, owning and operating nearly 8,000km of railway from Torkham in the north-west to Karachi in the south.

A second framework agreement was signed with Pakistan’s Ministry of Maritime Affairs to dredge the navigation channel at Qasim International Container Terminal. DP World will carry out the capital dredging.

The terminal has a capacity of 0.6 million TEUs per year and handles vessels up to 305 metres length, according to the Port Qasim Authority's website.

The third framework agreement covers the development of an economic zone at Port Qasim, which aims to attract more than $3 billion of foreign direct investment, according to the statement.

DP World will develop the zone, with the aim of maximising economic activity in Pakistan, the company said.

Despite challenges ranging from higher costs to escalating geopolitical tensions, business executives globally remain “surprisingly optimistic” about trade in 2024, according to new research from Economist Impact and DP World released earlier this week.

About 34 per cent of the executives surveyed said their optimism stems from new technology designed to improve supply chain efficiency, while 30 per cent cited increased economic stability, 20 per cent pointed to the end of the pandemic and nearly 18 per cent are upbeat about new trade agreements.

The report, released on Tuesday at the World Economic Forum, surveyed 3,500 company executives on their views about trade trends, technology adoption, supply chains and geopolitical risks.

Updated: January 18, 2024, 2:05 PM