Pakistan rejects WTO's port criticism

Pakistan has rejected outright a World Trade Organisation report on congestion at its ports, describing its findings as "flawed and absolutely wrong", writes AR Siddiqi in Karachi.

Ports and shipping minister Fahim-ud-Din Ansari said : "At the moment we have zero congestion at our ports." He said that port congestion meant berths being unavailable, with vessels standing at outer anchorage waiting to occupy a berth inside the port.

"This is the story of early 1980s, not now. We, at the most, take 24-3 hours in clearing a ship at our orts, while the internationally stipulated time for clearing a vessel stands at 2 hours," he said.

But Mr. Ansari acknowledged that there was some warehouse congestion inside the ports.

"As storage charges are high outside, our businessmen keep their imported commodities in warehouses inside the ports where they pay comparatively lower charges," he added.

He also agreed that custom clearance procedures were still flawed, and proposed that at least 3% of Pakistan's gross domestic product be invested in modernising the transport and logistics sector. Rejecting the WTO's claim of high entry charges at Karachi port, the minister said that the Karachi Port Trust had recently reduced port charges : "KPT has one of the most competitive port charges in the region," he added.