Gunter Pauli was the first to propound the idea of a ‘Blue Economy’ in 2010, also referred to as Maritime Economy, and is now considered the backbone of contemporary economies. Later, in 2012, at a UN Conference in Brazil, Island countries dwelled further on the Sea economy and thus developed the concept. In Europe, the Blue Economy represents roughly 5.4 million jobs and generates a gross added value of almost €500 billion annually. In Australia, the Blue Economy has brought together a conglomerate of 40 industry, government, and research partners, thus creating a force of cohesion for the industry. China’s marine industry contribution has increased from 32.79% to 56.6% from 2000 to 2017 & added value of the marine tertiary industry in China surpassed that of the secondary sector and showed the highest contribution to the maritime economy.

Regional countries like Bangladesh & India, with similar resources and constraints as Pakistan, earn Billions from Blue Economy initiatives.

Pakistan, with a coastline of 1000 Km stretching from Sir Creek in the East to Jiwani in the West, a vast EEZ, and all the ingredients of a Maritime state, has the potential of generating $ 66.5 Billion by tapping Blue Economy avenues; however, is somehow ignorant or averse to this medium of economic development. As per the government’s estimates, Blue Economy is ranked 7th among the world’s first ten economies. However, the avenue, which accounts for 36.4% of the country’s mainland, is still in its infancy. With 90 percent of commerce and all fuel imports shipping via sea routes, developing a Blue Economy is imperative. Pakistan has yet to capitalize on its true potential in this arena.

Famous US Maritime strategist Alfred Mahan has mentioned six essential elements of Maritime power: geographical position, physical conformation, territory, population, character of people, and government. Despite having the potential for economic growth through the Maritime sector, the fifth and sixth element needs to be added to Pakistan’s resolve for maritime change.

Policy is the foundation through which the agenda is developed and subsequently achieved. This weakest link severely impeded the country’s Blue Economy development.

The first step in policy development is to link the country’s Blue Economic growth with the Strategic Development Goals (SDGs). Then, Cohesion, coordination, and collaboration are required between all the stakeholders, particularly between Baluchistan & Sindh. Including the Blue Economic growth model in the Maritime Policy of Pakistan requires complete revision based on SDGs and contemporary requirements of the country based on ground realities.

Another impediment is that since the passing of the 18th constitutional amendment, the federal maritime policies are meaningless because now it’s a provincial subject. Unfortunately, the country’s Maritime policy was made in 2002 and has never been revised. The maritime sector has changed altogether; however, the guidelines are two decades old and incompatible with present world realities.  It is thus time to formulate a comprehensive Marine Policy in consultation with all stakeholders, rather than mere rubber stamping of the old policies with no regard to the contemporary requirements.

It’s imperative to note that Pakistan’s Merchant Marine Policy 2001(MMP) was amended after 18 years in 2019, and the amendment has been extended till 2030 with very few modifications, which is not enough. It also lacks the legal backing enjoyed by an act, and its provisions can be changed by Cabinet or Economic Coordination Committee (EEC). This creates a lack of confidence in its continuation amongst the stakeholders. Automation is almost negligible, thus increasing documentation. The time taken for customs clearance is 12 times longer than in UAE. Weak track and trace consignment and lack of transport-related infrastructures impede the maritime sector from meeting its potential.

Pakistan also needs a more robust mechanism for maritime sector control. Although a member of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), Asia Pacific International Commission (APIC), and International Oceanography Commission (IOC), however, adherence is limited due to weak monitoring and evaluation system and lack of checks & balances.

Deep Sea, Fishing Vessel Policy, was introduced in 2018 with a strict monitoring mechanism. However, deep-sea trawlers tend to venture far beyond their legal limits for illegal fishing. It needs to be curbed.

Pakistan is full of Maritime potential due to its vast coastline and EEZ, and given State blessings in terms of favorable policies, undertaking of Joint ventures coupled with a strong will, this sector has the potential to provide a significant financial boost to its economy and in turn to the lifestyle of its citizens.

Thus, integrating social, political, economic & environmental factors forms the backbone of a solid blue economy. A conducive national & transnational cooperation, along with monitoring and evaluation of the methodologies, records & data, indicators, etc., will help maritime activities at sea sustainably for the country’s betterment.

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