The history of Karachi port, like the history of the City of Karachi dates back quite some time, the earliest reference to the Karachi port is recorded by the Arab Navigator Sulaiman Al-Mahri in AD1511.
However, the detailed history starts from around 1729, as from 1729 to 1783, the town of Karachi, changed hands several times between the Khans of Kalat and the rulers of Sindh.
In 1783, after two prolonged sieges the town fell to the Talpur Mirs of Sindh, who constructed a fort mounted with cannons on Manore island at the harbour entrance.
The British were concerned about the Russian expansion towards the Arabian sea, so in 1839 they occupied Karachi and later the whole of Sindh. The port served as a landing point for the British troops during the first Afghan war (1839-1842).
Due to its geographic location, a number of British Companies opened their offices and warehouses in Karachi, the modern port began to take shape in 1854. The period between 1856 and 1872 saw a marked increase in trade due to three main factors. Firstly, from 1861 onwards Railway line was laid to connect Karachi to the cotton and wheat producing areas of the Sindh and northern parts of what is now Pakistan, secondly, during the American Civil war, cotton from Sindh replaced American cotton as a raw material in the British textile industry and thirdly, the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. Another major export from Karchi port was the oil, it was transported by rail from the Sui region in Balochistan to the port. By 1899 Karachi was the largest wheat and cotton exporting port in South Asia.
Karachi’s importance as a gateway to British India increased in 1911 when the capital was moved from Calcutta to Delhi. Karachi was an important military base during the first world war (1914 -18), because it was the first British Raj port of call for ships coming through the Suez canal and was also the gateway to Afghanistan and the Russian Empire. In 1936 the Sindh district of the "Bombay Presidency" was reorganised as a new province with Karachi as the capital instead of the traditional capital "Hyderabad". This led to increase in its population and importance. Karachi was again a military base and port for supplies to the Russian front during the Second World War (1939–1945).
In 1947, Karachi became the capital of the new nation of Pakistan, resulting in a growth in population as it absorbed hundreds of thousands of refugees from India, who fled the massacre of thousands of Muslims by the Hindu majority.
Today Karachi is the main port of the country and has been since Pakistan gained independence in 1947. It is Pakistan’s largest and busiest seaport, handling about 60% of nation’s cargo and almost all of the sea-borne trade to/from Afghanistan. The Karachi port suffered severe damage during the 1971 war with India. It was the only port until the mid-seventies when Port Qasim was built.
The port is located between the towns of Keamari and Saddar, close to the heart of old Karachi. The administration of the port is carried out by the Karachi Port Trust which was established in the 19th century.
The Karachi port comprises a deep water natural harbour with a 12 kilometre long approach channel which provides safe navigation for vessels of up to 75,000 metric tons dead weight (DWT). The main areas of port activity are two quays; East Quay with seventeen vessel berths and West Quay with thirteen vessel berths. The maximum depth alongside the berths is currently 11.3 metres. The two quays extend in opposite directions along the upper harbour – the East Quay northeast from Keamari Island and the West Quay southwest from Saddar town. The two Quays each include a container terminal:
Adjacent to the West Quay is the Karachi Fishing Harbour, which is administered separately from the port and is the base for a fleet of several thousand fishing vessels. The West Quay also has a ship repair facility and shipyard and a naval dockyard at the tip of the Quay, while to the south of the port are the Karachi Naval Base and the Keamari Boat Club.
In order to enhance facilities, the deepening of the port and its approach channel to 13.5 metres and more is on-going.
At the time of independence in 1947, the port capacity was about 1.5million tons of dry cargo and 1.0million tons of P.O.L. products per annum. Karachi Port is now handling over 25 million tons of dry cargo (including 1,213,744 TEUs) and 11.74 million tons of liquid cargo per annum.
Some of the major facilities at Karachi Port are listed below:
Karachi International Container Terminal (KICT): opened in 1996 at West Quay berths 28-30. It has a handling capacity of 700,000 TEUs per annum and handles container ships up to 14.0 metre draught. The total quay length is 973 metres.
Pakistan International Container Terminal (PICT): KPT awarded a 21 year concession to a company in private sector to establish a dedicated container terminal on Build-Operate-Transfer basis. PICT was Opened in 2002 at East Quay berths 6-9. It has a handling capacity of 450,000 TEUs per annum and handles container ships up to 13.5 metre draught. The total quay length is 600 metres divided into two container berths. The terminal is equipped with two Panamax cranes.
Al-Hamd International Container Terminal (AICT): KICT and PICT have a nearby competitor in the shape of a privately operated Al-Hamd International Container Terminal (AICT), which opened in 2001 at a site west of the Layari River. AICT is situated n Sindh Industrial Trading Estate.
Oil Pier I: Information currently not available.
Oil Pier II: This pier was originally constructed in 1966 to handle 35,000 DWT tankers and had 3million ton annual capacity. It was reconstructed in 2005 at a cost of Rs.148 billion to handle 90,000 DWT tankers and now has a capacity of 8 million tons annually.
Oil Pier III: Information currently not available.
Some of the proposed project of Karachi Port trust, are as follows:
Bulk Cargo Terminal: A dedicated bulk cargo terminal with 3.0 million tons capacity, is proposed to be established with an estimated cost of $20.0 million. The terminal will have 630 metres of quay wall. It is anticipated that the terminal will be established by the private sector, possibly on Build, Operate and Transfer basis.
Pakistan Deep Water Container Terminal (PDWCT): In order to cater for the new generation of “Super Post Panamax” container ships, KPT has decided to develop PDWCT. The PDWCT is basically another port, on the east of the existing Karachi Port. It is being built by a Chinese company at a cost of $1.6 billion, it should be fully operational by 2014. The terminal is located at the east of Keamari Groyne and consists of 10 berths of 18 metres depth and 3.75Km of quay wall. The terminal will have capacity of 3.1 million containers per year. PDWCT will be operated by Hutchison Port Holdings of Hong Kong.
Liquid Natural Gas Terminal: LNG terminal is proposed to be set up at an approximate cost of $500 million, in partnership with the private sector.
Coal Terminal: A dedicated coal terminal is proposed, with 50,000 tons capacity.
Cruise Terminal: A cruise terminal is proposed at the Manora island. It is proposed that the terminal will have 700 metres long quay wall and be able to handle the latest cruise liners.