Gwadar Port is a warm-water, deep-sea port situated on the Arabian Sea at Gwadar in Balochistan province of Pakistan. The port features prominently in the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) plan, and is considered to be a crucial link between the ambitious One Belt, One Road and Maritime Silk Road projects.
Gwadar’s potential to be a deep water sea port was first noted in 1954, while the city was still under Omani suzerainty. Plans for construction of the port were not realised until 2007, when the port was inaugurated by Parvez Musharraf after four years of construction, at a cost of $248 million.
In 2015, it was announced that the city and port would be further developed under CPEC at a cost of $1.62 billion, with the aim of linking northern Pakistan and western China to the deep water seaport. The port will also be the site of a floating liquefied natural gas facility that will be built as part of the larger $2.5 billion Gwadar-Nawabshah segment of the Iran–Pakistan gas pipeline project. Construction began in June 2016 on the Gwadar Special Economic Zone, which is being built on 2,292 acre site adjacent to Gwadar’s port. In late 2015, the port was officially leased to China for 43 years, until 2059.
Gwadar port became fully operational on 14 November 2016 and was inaugurated by Pakistan’s Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif & Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif.
Expansion under CPEC
The Western Alignment of CPEC is depicted by the red line. The 1,153 kilometre route will link the M1 Motorway near Islamabad with Gwadar Port. The Western Alignment will also connect to the Karakoram Highway, which is being rebuilt and overhauled as part of CPEC to provide improved access to Gilgit Baltistan and the Chinese region of Xinjiang.
Under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor plan, China Overseas Port Holding Company (COPHC) will expand Gwadar Port with construction of nine new multipurpose berths on 3.2 kilometres of seafront to the east of the existing multipurpose berths. COPHC will also build cargo terminals in the 12 kilometres of land to the north and northwest of the site along the shoreline of the Demi Zirr bay.
In total, COPHC has awarded $1.02 billion worth of contracts for expansion of the port. In addition to construction of nine berths and cargo terminals, plans for expanded port infrastructure also include several projects that will be financed by loans extended by Chinese state owned banks. The Gwadar Port dredging project will deepen approach channels to a depth of 14 meters from the current 11.5-meter depth, at a cost of $27 million. Dredging will enable docking of larger ships with a deadweight tonnage of up to 70,000 at Gwadar Port, while current capacity permits a maximum 20,000 DWT. Future plans call for dredging of the harbour to a depth of 20 meters to allow for docking of larger vessels. Also included as part of the CPEC infrastructure development package for port infrastructure is a $130 million breakwater around the port.
Ancillary infrastructure projects for the port will also be built as part of CPEC. A $114 million desalination plant will be developed to provide potable water to the city, while the Government of Pakistan will also contribute $35 million towards infrastructure projects in the Gwadar Special Economic Zone.A 19 kilometre-long dual carriageway known as the Gwadar East Bay Expressway will also be built at a cost of $140 million to connect Gwadar Port to the existing Makran Coastal Highway and the planned $230 million Gwadar International Airport.
A floating liquefied natural gas facility that will have a capacity of 500 million cubic feet of liquified natural gas per day will also be built at the port as part of the $2.5 billion Gwadar-Nawabshah segment of the Iran–Pakistan gas pipeline, which is being built as a joint venture between Pakistan’s Inter State Gas System, and the China National Petroleum Corporation.The Pakistani government also intends to establish a training institute named Pak-China Technical and Vocational Institute at Gwadar which is to be completed at the cost of 943 million rupees to impart skills to local residents to train them to operate machinery at the port.
It is expected that by 2017, the port will handle over one million tons of cargo,most of which will consist of construction materials for other CPEC projects. COPHC plans to eventually expand the port’s capacity to 400 million tons of cargo per year. Long terms plans for Gwadar Port call for a total of 100 berths to be built by 2045.
The government of China in August 2015 announced that the previously announced concessionary loans for several projects in Gwadar totalling $757 million would be converted 0% interest loans for which Pakistan will only be required to repay the principal value.The projects which are now to financed by the 0% interest loans include: the construction of the $140 million East Bay Expressway project, installation of breakwaters in Gwadar which will cost $130 million, a $360 million coal power plant in Gwadar, a $27 million project to dredge berths in Gwadar harbour, and a $100 million 300-bed hospital in Gwadar.
In September 2015, the government of China also announced that the $230 million Gwadar International Airport project would no longer be financed by loans, but would instead be constructed by grants which the government of Pakistan will not be required to repay.