ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Ports and Shipping Senator Kamran Michael stated that the efforts undertaken for the revival of the ministry and National Shipping Corporation had started bearing fruit.
“99.9 percent corrupt and negligent officials have been replaced with honest, able and dedicated officers and a foolproof system has been put in place to improve performance of the workforce.”
Talking to Customs Today during an exclusive interview, Senator Kamran Michael recalled that when he took over the office he had to surmount a myriad of problems ranging from administrative to financial. “The first step I took after entering the office was to get rid of the employees who had become burden on the ministry, particularly those with fake degrees sitting idle and receiving pay cheques while doing nothing,” he pointed out, adding that in the light of Supreme Court’s order, the Ministry of Ports and Shipping sacked 891 ‘corrupt and dishonest’ employees.
The minister informed that he was stunned when he came to know that these ‘dummy’ employees would remain absent from duty but other employees used to mark their attendance to avoid their wrath.
Kamran Michael claimed that the incumbent government set the pace for the revival of the Shipping Ministry by showing the door to all illegally appointed employees, although political forces involved in this ‘heinous crime’ raised hue and cry, the government paid little attention to their ‘traditional tactics.’
“We have almost complete the important phase of our revival programme – right man for the right slot – because no reform can succeed until eligible employees are brought to the fore,” he maintained, adding that biometric machines had been placed for attendance to eliminate the malpractice of fake attendance.
To a query, about missing containers scam occurred in the tenure of the previous government, Kamran Michael declared that the ministry’s jurisdiction and responsibility ended where limits of the ports ended. “The ministry cannot be held responsible for the disappearance of containers during movement beyond its ports jurisdiction,” he pointed out, adding that the issue fell within the Customs Department’s ambit.
The Port and Shipping minister quoted former FBR Customs member Ramzan Bhatti having told investigators that the customs officials had been involved in the scam.
It is to be noted that the Customs Intelligence stopped investigation into the missing of 39 containers following the statement of American ambassador that none of the US containers had been missing.
The Federal Shipping Minister revealed that he had strictly forbidden the practice of opening the cargo meant for Afghan Transit Trade at Karachi which the transporters used to do to save about Rs200,000.
About steps taken to prevent containers theft, he said that companies like PICT, KICT and QICT had installed 3-d scanners at their own to scan containers, adding that 15 percent of export goods and 85 percent of import goods were being scanned before proceeding further.
Kamran Michael regretted that cables of a scanner given by USAID to Customs and installed at Karachi Port Trust, had been stolen which could not be recovered to-date despite the lapse of a year.
“To stop theft at ports, Vigilance and Anti-Encroachment Cell (V&AEC) has been established under the direct supervision of the Shipping Minister,” the minister informed, adding that the V&AEC had also been tasked with retrieving grabbed land of the Ports and Shipping Ministry from the mafia. He disclosed that 70 acres of land, 250 warehouses and 35 foundations had been retrieved by the cell from illegal occupation in different areas of Karachi including Machar Colony.
“The land, warehouses and foundations will be auctioned to professionals and eligible persons in a transparent manner,” the Shipping Minister said, adding that a summary had already been sent to Prime Minister in this regard.
Kamran Michael maintained that in the light of PM’s vision, the Ports and Shipping Ministry was working hard to complete Gwadar Port project with the cooperation from China. “$1.7 billion is being allocated for the development of road infrastructures, free trade zones, airport, free hospital, technical and vocational training centres, port infrastructures and designing,” he divulged and added that 3-d berth had already been completed and RO berth rolls on and rolls off were being developed at Gwadar Port.
The Shipping Minister claimed that due to consistency in performance, once again 163 ships were being called at ports simultaneously.
He boasted that the National Shipping Corporation (NSC) would add six oil-tankers into its fleet besides two more ships were being inducted into the fleet soon.
Kamran Michael revealed that the ministry was going to introduce passenger cruise service for Hazara community from Karachi port to Iranian port of Chahbahar. “In fact the launch of the service will boost the public confidence in government,” he expressed his hope, adding that once the service was launched, a NSC ship would be able to carry 1,600 passengers altogether.
The minister claimed that the ministry had taken all stakeholders including Customs, Immigration and FIA on board on the issue of launching the ferry service for pilgrims to Iran. “However, we are waiting for Foreign Ministry’s crucial back-up which in turn is waiting for green signal from Iran,” he quickly added.
Kamran Michael said that apart from this service, his minister was contemplating launching ferry service for Hajj and Umrah to Saudi Arabia. “The Shipping Ministry has contacted the Ministry of Religious Affairs for the purpose and we have been assured of quota allocation from the next year,” he declared, adding that with the introduction of the service, people would be able to perform their religious obligations with a low cost.
“It will certainly be a great achievement on the part of the incumbent government and the Ports and Shipping Ministry as well,” he concluded.