Pakistan to launch int’l ferry service linking Iran, Iraq, UAE

ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Tuesday gave formal approval to the launch of a ferry service from Karachi and Gwadar ports to neighbouring states of Iran, Iraq, United Arab Emirates and beyond.

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

According to a summary exclusively available with this scribe, the potential advantages of water transportation through ferry services were established and common around the world, particularly in several European countries.

In the regional countries such as Iran, UAE, Oman, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, there were established ferry operators, which were successfully running on various routes. The potential for initiating a ferry service in Pakistan has been felt for quite some time, especially in the context of providing an alternate route for Zaireen intending to visit holy sites in Iran and Iraq.

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Further, transportation between Karachi and Gwadar and provision of an alternate water route between Karachi and Port Qasim also has good potential for the country. 

According to details, the Ministry of Maritime Affairs had moved a summary for Prime Minister on December 15, 2017, through foreign affairs, interior, revenue and defence divisions, proposing the launch of a ferry service through Pakistan National Shipping Corporation (PNSC).

The 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. Hence, the Prime Minister’s Office returned the summary with the directions to address the observations of the defence ministry and re-submit the same within the shortest possible time. 

Subsequently, the maritime affairs ministry re-submitted the proposal along with a response to the observations raised by the Ministry of Defence. 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.

The Defence Division recommended ferry services to Muscat and then to UAE and Abu Dhabi in first and second phases, respectively, and later to Iran/Iraq in the third phase. The ministry was of the view that ferry service without Iran/Iraq, a popular destination for the Zaireen, in the first phase shall not be commercially viable.

The foreign affairs and interior divisions endorsed the proposal of this ministry subject to addressing the security concerns raised by the Ministry of Defence. The re-submitted proposal was returned by the Prime Minister’s Office, with the direction to convene a meeting of the relevant stakeholders in order to address all the observations/concerns, including those raised by FBR and defence ministry and thereafter submit recommendations.

On Tuesday, the ministry proposed starting ferry service from Karachi (Karachi Port), linking Port Qasim and Gwadar Port with Bandar Abbas (Iran), Basra (Iraq), Muscat (Oman) and Dubai (UAE) separately or collectively. 

The ferry terminals at Karachi Port, Port Qasim and/or Gwadar Port would be established by the respective port authorities, replicating all the operational facilities related to security, immigration, customs etc. as that of any international airport in the country in collaboration with other ministries. 

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Mian Abrar
The writer heads Pakistan Today's Islamabad Bureau. He has a special focus on counter-terrorism and inter-state relations in Asia, Asia Pacific and South East Asia regions. He can be reached at [email protected]


  1. This is a good initiative if only public welfare is adhere.
    Unfortunately it’s not a profitable venture.
    Let’s Not describe this service as cruise where we have seen previuoly Shahzad Roy arranging live concert.
    Keep it simple !

    fare charges must compete air line charges.
    It will be hard for the operator to make it viable.
    FOC fixed operating cost may not be meet with number of passenger’s fare or in case if ferry brought on time chartered basis then bale out package we may see in few month for operator.

    It also not a good time due covid 19 and visa requirement for other countries and yet shore passes to go out.

  2. Same is available all around the world, however we as usual treated a slaves from our own institutions therefore a facility having security risk, less profitable etc etc type reasons for any facility for nation.
    When I was child thousands of Hajis travel by ships but to make money and facilitate a group of … This service had stopped.

    If any risk is involved we should enhance our system as rest of the world do, instead few enjoying and nation suffering.

    May Allah rid off all evils from our system with their ….ameen

  3. A very brave step by this government
    Hope several opearators will take part
    This can.b commercial as well as welfare project if opened for hajj umrah and ziarat purpose as well as dubai and other tourism places like maldives
    Well its just start of the journey
    Long way to go

  4. A good initiative if handled correctly. The service needs to be vetted and regular safety checks are paramount and must be enforced. The fares need to be correctly price so passengers have a cheaper alternative to airlines and the operators can make a reasonable profit. If the government can’t ensure the above that it’ll be another failed initiative. But hoping for the best insha’Allah.

  5. Bohat muskil hai k ye kholain aisi services.
    Ye tou bus 1 nayee wizaarat k liye naya wazeer laanay ka zariya lagta hai.
    Puraanay chipkay hue badmaasho se hukumatain nimat nahi saktee, naye badmaash lagaanay mein sab aagay aagay rehtay….
    (Chipkay hue badmaash: K-Electric, water board, excise deptt., FBR etc…..).

  6. Hi it’s good to hear.may Allah give us chance to see positive things in pakistan but with very respect any one can show me the any institute in government or any power institution with honesty;justice and faithful of public & pakistan.plz they all have to start thinking about farry system in coming years in karachi.pakistan is only for ashrafiya & powerful people.poor people in Pakistan born only to sink & die in rain & gutter water.

  7. Yours leaders are planning good things for the country, therefore, work hard and honesty will bring respect and income . Employ trained and honest young people in smart uniform and not in sleepy dress to run the flagship programme.

  8. A good iniative taken by government …This will be good for neighbour countries for tourist purpose & for visit holy sites as well..


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