THE Marine Group of Companies (MGC) is a conglomerate of 24 companies that is engaged in diversified cargo handling and logistics services, ranging from container handling at their fully equipped international standard container terminal to air, rail and road transportation.
Now, the MGC group has earned a 30-year Built, Operate and Transfer (BOT) concession from the Port Qasim Authority (PQA) for establishing a dirty cargo terminal the Pakistan International Bulk Terminal (PIBT).
It will be the country`s first terminal for handling coal, clinker and cement to meet industry`s demand for mechanised handling of dirty bulk cargo.
The estimated cost of the PIBT is $200 million, and on completion under two phases, the terminal would be able to handle around eight million tonnes per annum of coal, clinker and cement. There is also a provision to enhance its handling capacity to up to 12 million tonnes per annum.
It will be the first coal handling facility to comply with international standards of environmental pollution control and thus ensure a pollution-free environment at Port Qasim.
The sponsors of the PIBT the MGCgroup conceived the idea of establishing a dirty cargo container after looking into the rapid growth in demand for coal from the cement industry over the last five years.
Pakistan`s growing industry requires viable and cost effective fuel sources for power generation. Coal consumption and export of cement and clinker has been rising, and according to official figures, the country imported around 4.5 million tonnes of coal and expor-ted nearly 10.6 million tonnes of cement and clinker during 2010.
The group has already awarded civil works of the PIBT to Contractor`s JV consortium, led by the Siyahkalem Engineering Construction (a Turkish company) and Maqbool Associates, at a cost of Rs6.7 billion.
Under the stewardship of Capt. Haleem ASiddiqui, the MGC did a pioneering job in developing the port infrastructure through indigenous expertise by setting up the Pakistan International Container Terminal (PICT) at a cost of $150 million.
The Karachi Port Trust (KPT), in order to maintain its edge over Port Qasim as the premier port of the country, sought proposals from private sector investors to develop the second modern, fully equipped international standard container terminal at East Wharf.
After getting a 21-year concession award in 2002 from the KPT on BOT basis, the group gave the task to design, finance, construct and operate a dedicated container terminal to its sister concern the Premier Mercantile Services (Pvt) Ltd which has a cargo handling experience of over 30 years.
The terminal, with a design depth of berths at 13.5 metres, has a quay wall of 600 metres, with a backup area of 21 hectares. It has the capability of handling up to 450,000 TEUs (twenty feet equivalent unit).
The MGC`s flagship venture, PICT, was the first port infrastructure project in the country to be financed by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) the private sector arm of the World Bank and the Opec Fund for International Development (OFID).
It was sponsored and owned by Pakistanis, and was also to be the first port infrastructure project listed on the Karachi Stock Exchange. However, it changed hands last year as a Philippine-based company purchased a majority of its shares.
In the last 50 years, the Marine Group has established itself as a leading shipping and logistics service provider in the country, offering a wide range of services, including maritime services; stevedoring; terminal operations; chartering of ships; global logistics; agency services and insurance cover to the international maritime industry; trucking and warehousing; information technology; event management; travel and tourism, and clearing and forwarding shipments to their respective destinations.
During a chat with this writer in his office, MCG Chairman Capt. Haleem A Siddiqui stated that the confidence of foreign investors in his group could well be judged from the fact that last year, they purchased majority shares of PICT at Rs300 per share, against the face value of Rs10.
All of this happened, he said, at a time when foreign and local investors were reluctant to make investment in Pakistan. But the Philippine-based company lifted PICT`s shares from the open market and other stakeholders, including foreign investors.
Captain Siddiqui further said that even after getting a majority share in the PICT, the foreign company did not take over the management of the terminal, which is still being run by its CEO, Captain Zafar Iqbal Awan.
`This is another feather in our cap, that foreign investors repose their trust and confidence in us.
`Even today, the International Finance Corporation is with us, taking a 20 per cent equity in the project.` In addition to this, he said, the IFC is providing 50 per cent of the debt for the project. A consortium of seven local banks, including three Islamic banks, is presently raising funds for the project.
`After making a modest start as a cadet officer in the Pakistan merchant navy, I obtained the qualification of Master Marine from the UK in 1968. I commanded various vessels till 1971,` Capt. Siddiqui reminisces during an interview with this scribe.
In the same year, he started his own business as a marine consultant and surveyor, acting as superintendent and owners` representative for various shipping companies that were both operating inside and outside the country.
Thereafter, he established one company after another. But Capt. Siddiqui kept his focus on marine and logistics services, and as a result, a conglomerate of 24 companies is flourishing under his leadership