Sep 9, 2020, 1:21 PM
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Pakistani cabinet approves setting up shipping line to Iran

Islamabad, Sept 9, IRNA -- Cabinet of Pakistan, led by Prime Minister Imran Khan, has approved setting up a shipping line with Iran and some other states, as part of cooperation with Iran, a step heralding bright prospects for the two neighboring countries in maritime sector.

Pakistan’s Minister of Maritime Affairs, who accompanied Prime Minister Khan during his official visit to Iran in 2019, yesterday announced on his Twitter account that the government has agreed to launch a shipping line with some countries.

“Historic day for Pakistan, Federal Cabinet allowed to start Ferry/Passenger Ships to all possible destinations across the world,” wrote Seyed Ali Haider Zaidi.

A Pakistani government spokesman who is also information Minister told reporters in Islamabad hours after the cabinet meeting that Pakistan would implement a plan to launch a shipping line to facilitate travel, especially for pilgrims.

**Bright horizon of Iran-Pakistan maritime cooperation

Implementation of shipping line project which the previous governments had announced is a serious step by the Pakistani government to enhance maritime cooperation with Iran.

Meanwhile, the English-language website "Pakistan Today", referring to the development wrote: The path of cooperation with the Islamic Republic of Iran in the field of sea, especially the shipping line, has been paved.

According to the plan of the Ministry of Maritime Affairs of Pakistan, the international shipping line will be launched from the ports of "Karachi and Gwadar" to the ports of neighboring Iran.

At present, there is no international or national commercial ferry service operating in Pakistan for the purpose of transportation of passengers and goods.

The Pakistani Ministry of Maritime Affairs has proposed the connection of the port of Gwadar to Bandar Abbas in Iran, and then a similar plan will be implemented with Oman, the UAE and Iraq.

Pakistan Today reported that Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Interior endorsed the proposal, but the Defence Division had raised various observations/conditions on the proposed ferry service.

It proposed a slightly changed route and involvement of private operators. The Defence Division supported the proposal but stressed that ferry service should be launched in three phases.

**Iran welcomes the launch of the shipping line

Iran's Minister of Industry, Mines and Trade Reza Rahmani visited Pakistan in July last year to meet senior Pakistani officials had welcomed the efforts of the Islamabad government to implement the passenger shipping line project between the two countries.

Rahmani emphasized: "Passenger and freight transportation by sea can also change scope of trade between Iran and Pakistan."

**Pakistan desires enhanced maritime trade with Iran

Just days before the Pakistani government agreed to launch a shipping line Iran, the Advisor to the Pakistani Prime Minister on trade told IRNA in Islamabad that the country wanted to expand trade with Iran, especially using the two countries' capabilities.

Abdul Razak Dawood said Pakistan wants to export rice to Iran through sea routes which would help in boosting the trade between the two countries.

“We are prepared to export more rice, however Iran wants these shipments by trucks but we want to ship the commodity by sea so this is going to be one of the agendas during the next trade meeting,” he said.

“How can we increase the quantum of rice, just by shipping through trucks it is difficult rather we would ship 50,000 tonnes by sea,” he viewed.

The Minister of Industry, Mines and Trade of the Islamic Republic of Iran in mid-July of last year during an official visit to Islamabad said: The shipping fleet of the two countries is an effective way to support joint cooperation.

**Sea, an easy and safe route for Pakistani pilgrims

Every year, thousands of Pakistani citizens travel to Iran and Iraq from different parts of the country to the holy shrines in the two states,

The number of pilgrims and the trade and cultural linkages between the two countries would be doubled through Iran-Pakistan sea line.

Economic and tourism experts see the launch of a shipping line between Iran and Pakistan as a good opportunity to boost trade, maritime tourism and giving more employment opportunities.

Following the widespread wave of terrorist attacks in recent years on the route of Pakistani Shiite pilgrimage caravans in Balochistan to the joint border with Iran, the then government of Pakistan in 2014 introduced the first initiative to launch a shipping line from Pakistani ports to Chabahar and Bandar Abbas to facilitate the movement of Pakistani pilgrims away from the difficulties of land travel, especially to avoid terrorist acts.

Every year, on average, approximately 120,000 Pakistani travelers and pilgrims enter the Islamic Republic of Iran through the official border of Mirjaveh, and these trips reach their peak during Muharram and Safar.

In addition to visiting holy places in Iranian cities such as Mashhad and Qom, some of these pilgrims also travel to Iraq via Iran.

However, in recent years, the Pakistani government has repeatedly announced the finalization of the ferry service plan with Iran.

272**1416

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