The location of Gwadar port is a crucial component of its rise to prominence as a key strategic hub for trade and investment in South Asia. It is situated on the coast of the Arabian Sea in what is now the Pakistan province of Balochistan. Until 1958, Gwadar was a part of Oman, but the results of a survey which found that it had the potential to be developed as a deep sea port led to the government of Pakistan purchasing Gwadar from Oman for a price of $3 million. Work on developing the port began in 2002 and the first phase was inaugurated five years later in March 2007.
A deep sea port is one which is capable of handling large, heavily loaded ships. As well as the depth of the water itself, a deep sea port, if it is going to attract ships and traders, has to offer facilities such as cranes able to unload and load large scale containers.
The geographical position of Gwadar was as much of a driver for its redevelopment as the fact that it had the potential to be the home of a deep sea port. It is situated 120 km southwest of Turbat, and 170 km east of Chabahar Port in Iran. Perhaps of even more strategic importance is the fact that Gwadar sits at the gateway to the Strait of Hormuz. This is the strait of water which sits between the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf. It represents the only route by sea from the Persian Gulf to the wider ocean, and this means that an estimated 20% of the global petroleum supply currently passes through it. A deep sea port like Gwadar, located just 600km from the Strait of Hormuz, has the potential to open up trade routes which connect Central Asia, South Asia and the Middle East.
This is the reason why Gwadar has been chosen to play a vital role in the development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), offering a 3,000km trade route which connects Gwadar to Kashgar via road, rail and pipelines. It is also expected to play a prominent role in the Chinese governments Belt and Road Initiative, an ambitious plan to invest in infrastructure across Europe, Asia and Africa, creating trade routes over land and sea.
All of these factors come together to explain why Gwadar is experiencing the boom in development which is currently taking place. It is situated just 120km from the Iranian border, 380km from Oman and in the midst of a wider region which is thought to contain two thirds of all the world’s oil reserves. In addition to this it is the nearest warm water sea port to various Central Asian republics which combine the advantage of being rich in hydrocarbons with the drawback of not having a coastline. The deep sea port at Gwadar is set to be the trading gateway to the wider world for countries such as these and Afghanistan.