ISLAMABAD - Pakistan is giving final touches to its plans to launch Karachi-Chabahar and Gwadar-Muscat ferry services to promote people-to-people contact.

Sources in the Ports and Shipping Ministry told The Nation that modalities including clearance from relevant departments were being worked out for launching Karachi-Chabahar ferry service.

The national flag carrier, Pakistan National Shipping Corporation (PNSC) is also busy finalising its arrangements including acquisition of ferries.

“Karachi-Chabahar ferry service is being given priority because it is economically more viable. More than 200,000 Pakistani zaire’en (religious pilgrims), visit Iran each year,” sources said.    

A high-ranking Iranian delegation headed by Minister for Transport Abbas Akhundi has just concluded visit to Pakistan and is believed to have approved the ferry service plan.

During his visit to Karachi port, Akhundi also proposed to promote trans-shipment business through linkage between Karachi Port and Bandar Abbas as there was ample space of 204,000 hectares available at Bandar Abbas for promoting trans-shipment cargo handling facility.

Likewise, Pakistan is also in talks with Oman to enhance travel between Oman and Pakistan through a fast ferry service between the two nations.

“Discussions between Oman and Pakistan to start a fast ferry service between Gwadar and Muscat are nearing completion,” sources said.

Islamabad is waiting for the Government of Oman to complete their discussions on the proposal so that the plan is finalised.

Discussions on the fast ferry service between Pakistan and Oman have been underway for a while now.

Disqualified prime minister Nawaz Sharif, had supported the move in 2017 when he had an interaction with Dr Yahya Mahfoodh Salim Al-Mantheri, chairman of Oman’s State Council, during his official visit to Pakistan.

According to official estimates, there are some 275,000 Pakistanis who live and work in Oman and represent one of the largest expat populations in the country.

Shipping experts believed that availability of such a ferry service would provide an affordable and fast mode of transport between Oman and their homeland.

The distance between Pakistan and Oman is shorter than that between Oman and Iran they said and added that Oman is already operating fast ferry services between the mainland and its northern governorate of Musandam, which controls partial access to the Strait of Hormuz.

This service was launched in 2008 and was counted among the fastest in the world at the time of its launch.