(Yicai Global) Jan. 30 -- The first-phase area of the Gwadar Free Zone officially opened yesterday with over 30 Chinese and Pakistani companies already installed as tenants in the complex. The first Gwadar International Trade Fair was held on the same day to mark the park's inauguration.
All the plots in the initial area have been leased to tenants, whose operations cover a wide variety of businesses ranging from hospitality, banking, insurance and financial leasing to logistics, overseas warehousing, grain and oil processing, fish processing and home appliance assembly, Yicai Global learned from the park's operator, China Overseas Ports Holding Co. (COPH).
The initial area was developed with a total investment of over CNY3 billion (USD475 million). The annual output value is projected to exceed CNY5 billion after all tenants reach full operating capacity, spawning more than 2,000 jobs for locals.
The trade fair was well attended by companies and businesses from Pakistan, China, Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Oman, and the total number of booths had to be increased from 100 to over 150.
Despite the high demand for exhibition spaces, COPH provided 18 free booths for local businesses to satisfy their needs in Gwadar and Pakistan's southwestern Baluchistan, the province in which it lies.
The two-day fair was jointly organized by Gwadar Development Authority and COPH, as a platform for interactions between local and foreign entrepreneurs, financiers, investors and government officials. Pakistan's central government hopes to use this flagship project to create investment, trade and employment opportunities in the area.
COPH is the operator of both the free zone and port.
The Chinese company kicked off development of the free-trade zone immediately after it obtained the concession for port operations. With an investment of close to USD250 million, it turned the 10-hectare initial area into a modern business park with roads, public utilities, telecommunications, security fences and waste processing facilities, Yicai Global has learned.
By the end of last year, COPH had invested another USD50 million to develop and maintain roads, yards, terminal handling equipment, desalination, oil supply and surveillance systems in the port.
Gwadar can process bulk cargo, containers, roll-on/roll-off and liquefied petroleum gas.
Ships operated by China Overseas Shipping Co. (COSCO) and China Changjiang National Shipping (Group) Corp. have thus far berthed at the port nearly 40 times. COSCO plans to launch a new weekly container line in March to harmonize shipping schedules and actual demand.
Pakistan's Gateway to the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea, Gwadar Port has three 20,000-ton berths and went into operation in 2008. The Pakistani government granted concessions for port operation to the Chinese company on Jan. 30, 2013. China took over the haven on a 43-year leasehold on Sept. 11, 2015, shortly after the government decided to set up the country's first special economic zone in the area. A landmark project in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, Gwadar forms a key link in and the gateway to Central Asia for China's One Belt, One Road initiative to revive the trade routes of the ancient Silk Road that connected it to Europe and beyond.