Prospects of blue economy for Pakistan

Mansoor Bhatti
Covering more than 70% of the planet’s surface, 95% of the biosphere, serving as home to many complex ecosystems, and producing half of the planet’s oxygen, the ocean and its well-being are crucial to our own well-being. Besides being the cheapest medium for transportation of goods, oceans contribute towards world’s economy through tourism, fishing, renewable energy production, aqua culture and seabed resources. Economic activities in the oceans are expanding rapidly, driven primarily by growing population and globalization. Reliance on oceans has led to diverse economic interactions clubbed under the term ‘Blue Economy’ which covers industries focused on sustainable utilization of ocean based resources.
Individuals and nation-states now are resorting to the oceans as earthbound reserves become depleted. But this precious resource (Ocean) is also suffering the effects of human activities, including climate change, acidification, overfishing, pollution and much more. The blue economy has diverse components, further bolstering the fact that a blue future has to embrace innovative technology and skills to achieve economic, environmental and social sustainability.
Though the phenomenon of the blue economy is quite nascent globally but still the height of incongruity over it is that the policymakers along with the populace in Pakistan are yet sea blind undermining the potentials that could be tapped from the oceans and seas. The people and the decision making elite thus need to understand that the oceans are not limitless carrying bounties of resources and also the oceans those are not healthy and resilient are not able to support economic growth. Pakistan’s coastal region is brimming with innumerable marine resources. The coastal and marine areas have great potential of sustainable development of both living and non-living resources.
The marine resources such as ocean energy, minerals, water, petroleum hydrocarbons and fisheries; recreational and tourism potential stands largely untapped. The appraisal and investigation of these assets is fundamental for the economic growth of the nation. Pakistan’s prospects for sustained economic growth can only come to fruition if viable policy measures are crafted and implemented.
Pakistan’s coast is over 1000 km long extending from Sir Creek to Jiwani. Pakistan also utilizes its 290,000 sq km of Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) for numerous purposes including fishing, mining, exploration and marine research. Over 15 million barrels of crude oil is hipped right across the Pakistani coast from the Gulf States daily through the Persian Gulf. Pakistan also provides the shortest sea access to Afghanistan, Central Asian States and China. This adds not only to the importance of Maritime Economy potential of Pakistan but also highlights its geo-strategic significance.
Pakistan’s coastal areas have significant potential for the energy/ fuel generation from marine plants or other organic materials, hydrogen generated from a variety of ocean renewables and marine geothermal power. There are additionally open doors for hybrid projects, such as combination of offshore wind and wave or even wind and natural gas. Likewise, coastal tourism is a major global industry.
Being cognizant of the maritime potential of Pakistan, Pakistan Navy has taken various initiatives such as maritime security workshops, maritime conferences, visits and briefing to policy makers, engagements with media house and business community, inclusion of maritime related curriculum, maritime awareness and publicity campaigns, and observing world ocean and environment days, to harness benefits of Blue Economy. Across the globe, maritime exhibitions provide an ideal platform to showcase various marine related products, systems and services, leading to beneficial business partnerships.
On the same lines, Pakistan International Maritime Expo and Conference (PIMEC) is an initiative of Pakistan Navy being organized under the patronage of Ministry of Maritime Affairs in order to jump-start development of maritime sector in Pakistan and spur Blue Economy. PIMEC is scheduled from 10 to 12 Feb, 2023 at Karachi Expo Centre. The exhibition will bring together stakeholders and companies from diverse maritime fields to exploit and explore the potential of Blue Economy. It is actually to venture new chapter where we explore the true potential of much more that is to follow. Not only will it give us livelihood and vibrancy to our economy but also provide opportunities to mitigate climate change effects.
PIMEC will focus on investment and collaboration in the fields of port operations, maritime logistics, sea transportation, ship building and repair, ship-breaking, fisheries and aqua culture, sea-bed resource exploration, maritime training and education, coastal tourism, renewable energy, environmental protection, marine engineering equipment, and real estate development along the coast. The objectives set forth for PIMEC are; to provide opportunities to maritime industry to display products at single forum and interact directly with international maritime industry; to invite international maritime and defence manufacturers for joint ventures, transfer of technology, and research to provide impetus to Pakistan’s industrial setups; and to highlight Pakistan’s vast potential for Blue Economy, reinforce efforts in the realm of maritime diplomacy.
In order to achieve the objectives of this national level event, support of relevant ministries, departments and business community will be essential during planning as well as execution stages. PIMEC will provide an ideal opportunity for interactions between the target customers and maritime industry representatives. A large number of trade and industry participants from local and international maritime sector are therefore being invited to attend the event. During PIMEC, an exclusive international maritime conference will also be held under the auspices of National Institute of Maritime Affairs. Eminent speakers will exchange views on latest trends and scientific approach to various challenges related to maritime industry.
To sum up, PIMEC is a distinct event which will help in promoting sustainable, economically viable and mutually beneficial business relationships between maritime stakeholders across the globe. In addition, it will highlight the potential of maritime sector in Pakistan and help in capitalizing the benefits of Blue Economy.