By Syed Raza Hassan
KARACHI, Pakistan – Protesting fishermen blockaded Karachi port, assembling their trawlers across the main channel to halt all traffic in and out of Pakistan’s busiest port, officials said on Wednesday.
Karachi is the most important port in the country for movement of commodities and vehicles, and the disruption prompted the city’s business chamber to raise its concern that some vessels could turn away to avoid the costs of delay.
The fishermen from Sindh province were protesting restrictions on them entering the waters off neighboring Balochistan province.
“I hope talks to resolve the issue will resume on Wednesday afternoon,” Mahmood Maulvi, advisor to the Prime Minister Imran Khan on Maritime Affairs, told Reuters.
An earlier round of talks failed on Tuesday.
Port Qasim, which handles most container traffic and lies to the east of Karachi, was functioning normally, but the business community in Pakistan’s economic hub were worried that shipping companies would seek to avoid a port backed up with vessels waiting to be handled.
“If this continues there are fears that some ships might return to the high seas,” Muhammad Idress, president of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), said in a statement.
“This causes huge losses to the economy and business community,” he added.
There were mass protests by fishermen and ordinary people in the Baluchistan port city of Gwadar in December, to press demands for authorities to take action against illegal trawling by Chinese commercial fishing trawlers, and vessels from Sindh.
They were also protesting over a lack of basic facilities like power and water, and the restrictions on their movement and access to the sea resulting from the high level of security for the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that runs through the province.
To end the month-long protest, the provincial government agreed to most of the demands.
The fisheries department, coast guard and Maritime Security Agency are carrying out joint patrols to stop trawlers from Sindh coming into Balochistan waters.
Authorities in Balochistan detained around half a dozen fishing trawlers from Sindh last week, Tariq-ur-Rehman, Director General Balochistan Fisheries department said.
It was unclear what action was being taken to prevent Chinese fishing vessels for entering.