It happened fast. Surprisingly fast. Suspiciously fast almost. This is what went down.
A delegation from the UAE visited Karachi and met with Faisal Sabzwari, Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs on the 18th of May. The group contained delegates from AD Ports and Kaheel Terminals — both companies engaged in the development and management of ports around the world. It became clear during the meeting that the Emirati investors wanted in on Karachi port and the cash starved government was more than happy to oblige for any chance to get their hands on foreign exchange.
Things moved quickly and a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between the investors and the government. Just over a month later, on the 19th of June, the Cabinet Committee on Inter-Governmental Commercial Transactions created a negotiation committee to draft an agreement for the handover.
The committee worked fast. Three days later, a company by the name of Karachi Gateway Terminal Limited (KGTL) was created to manage, operate and develop berths 6-9 at Karachi Port’s East Wharf. A joint venture between AD Ports and Kaheel Terminals, KGTL claimed it would spend the next 10 years developing the port terminals and increasing its capacity. Overall, the immediate investment coming into Pakistan would be worth over $220 million —- a precious sum for a forex starved country.
There are a lot of questions regarding the agreement and the birth of KGTL. What parts of Karachi Port will be handed over to the new company? Who are these investors willing to take a bet on Pakistan at a difficult time in its history? Will they be able to make any money off this? Could the proposed expansion to the container terminals have any benefits for Pakistan?
But perhaps the most pertinent question is how this entire transaction happened so quickly.