PAKISTAN'S QASIM BERTHS ITS LARGEST CONTAINER SHIP

PAKISTAN'S QASIM BERTHS ITS LARGEST CONTAINER SHIP

Pakistan's Port Muhammad Bin Qasim last week berthed the largest containership it has ever handled, making it competitive with other regional ports.

The Louis Maersk, with capacity for 3,500 20-foot equivalent units, arrived at Qasim's International Container Terminal.The introduction of regular service to the Far East by Maersk means exports from Qasim will increase by 10 percent, a terminal spokesman said.

This would raise Qasim's share in the country's total exports to 40 percent; the rest is handled by the nearby Port of Karachi.

''The arrival of the vessel has given Pakistani ports a new lease on life,'' the spokesman said.

Pakistani ports were previously served by feeder vessels, due to inadequate handling facilities for box cargo.

Before the arrival of the 900-foot-long vessel, the longest ship the terminal handled was 804 feet, the spokesman said.

The $80 million terminal, which opened in August 1997, is a joint venture of Pakistani and overseas companies that include P&O Mackenzie and Pakistan-Kuwait Investment Co.

It can process 60,199 TEUs, but this will rise to 350,000 TEUs in seven years.

Qasim is currently a daytime port, but management has been under pressure to provide night navigation from the terminal, which would allow a doubling of cargo movement.

Meanwhile, the terminal has been adding equipment to improve productivity.

In April, the terminal received a new ship-to-shore crane with a capacity of lifting 52 tons and 60 moves an hour.