Karachi due to its geographical and strategic location is known as the gateway to Asia. Considered as a safe harbor since time immemorial, Karachi was a small fishing village in early nineteenth century. Historians identify it with its proximity to a place from where a part of Alexander's Army, boarded the Greek Flotilla in 326 B.C.
The first mention of Karachi as a port is found in an Arabic treatise 'Muhit' on navigation relating to the West Coast of India and the Persian Gulf. Written in 1558, this treatise warns the sailors of whirlpools and advises them to seek safety in Karachi Harbor if they found themselves drifting dangerously.
It is also significant to mention that the first Muslim Conqueror of India, Mohammad Bin Qasim, landed at Daibal, in vicinity of Karachi in 711 A.D. Karachi also has the distinction of being the birth place of the founder of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and was the first capital of Pakistan till 1963. It is now the largest city with a bustling and ever increasing population of over ten million.
By 1852, Karachi was an established city with a population of about 14,000 with a prosperous trade in over-seas markets. However, the existing Port started taking shape in 1854, when the projects of dredging the main navigable channel and the construction of a mole or causeway joining the main harbor with the rest of the city were undertaken. About 5 years later, construction of Manora Breakwater, Keamari Groyne, the Napier Mole Bridge, Native Jetty and the Chinna Creek were started which gave initial shape to the port.
The construction of the wharves started in 1882, and by 1914 the East Wharves and the Napier Mole Boat Wharf had been completed. During the period between 1927 and 1944, the West Wharves of the Port, the lighterage berths and the ship-repairing berths were constructed. Most of these facilities were obsolete by the time Pakistan came into existence in 1947. Since then, the port administration has embarked on extensive development of the port on modern lines.
At the time of independence in 1947, the Port capacity was about 1.5 million tons of dry cargo and 1.0 million tons of P.O.L. products per annum. Karachi Port is now handling over 11.74 million tons of liquid cargo and 25.45 million tons of dry cargo, including 1,213,744 TEUs which constitute about 60% of import/ export of the country.
The Karachi Port is administered by a Board of Trustees, comprising Chairperson and 10 Trustees. The Chairperson is appointed by the Federal Government and is also the Chief Executive of Karachi Port Trust. The remaining 10 Trustees are equally distributed between the public and the private sector. The five public sector trustees are nominated by the Federal Government. The seats for private sector trustees are filled by elected representatives of various private sector organizations. This way all port users find a representation in the Board of Trustees.
Head Office Building
Our national heritage embarks our cultural symbol in form of Karachi Port Trust’s Head Office Building. It was incorporated in the era of British government in sub-continent. The first glance of the building reminds us the renaissance of British Raj. It is a wonderful amalgamation of British, Hindu and Gothic cultures. G. Witted has designed the KPT Head Office, who was a consultant architect of the Government of Bombay. Witted was also the Architect of the Prince of Wales Museum / the Gateway of India (1908). This grandeur building is located on the opposite side of Qamar House, Eduljee Dinshaw Road, Karachi. Its structure was completed in 1915 under the supervision of the Engineering Department, KPT and the cost incurred for its completion was Rs.9,74,990/-. Lord Willingdone, the Governor of Bombay inaugurated KPT Head Office Building on 5th January, 1916. It occupied a large area about 1400 sq. meter. On the other side, KPT Head Office Building has a historical side, in the First World War (i.e. 7th February, 1916 to 6th May, 1919), the building was converted into 500 beds hospital, aimed to serve people. The color of building and material used in the construction was very unique as the color of the building is in a yellowish color that is Sepia, stone based. The curvature of this building is matchless and makes it stand tall amongst many structures. In building’s center curve, there is a large dome placed at the top of it. Domes are the prominent feature of Roman Architectures. Design of KPT Head Office and architect seems to be inspired by Roman Architects. Although, Domes were common feature in Islamic architecture but they were canvassed in different styles. The other classic materials of the buildings are its doors, windows and arches, which are huge in size and in green color. The combination of Green & yellow color enhances its beauty.
Exterior and interior of the building is very simple yet unique. Rooms are specious and have high ceiling on it. The building seems as it consists of three to four floors, but practically the two floors gap has been kept to make it colossal. The other interesting feature of the building is the teak wood works. Teak wood is very expensive and used in this building excessively. The wood works on the window is printed in dark green color, which adds more to its adornment. KPT Head office building had only one entrance with a huge door and 2 large anchors are kept on both sides. Striking arches of the corridors crafted in both exterior and interior, which is symbolic Roman Styled Architecture. The floors are tiled with black & white color and easily washable. These tiles are called cemented tiles, purposely made of by adding different colors in the cement. As we have already mentioned earlier, the usage of teak wood is found everywhere in the building, even the elevator is also wooden. While going up in elevator, you can experience a site seeing of every floor that passes by because there is no wall is present in between. There is only one railing back of the elevator, which is uncovered and mechanism of the elevator is visible. On its 2nd floor, there is a huge and specious Board Room that adds great significance because it is located right under in dome, where all the meetings held. There are two huge arch shaped glass windows; beautiful glass painting is done on them. Old clock kept there by the name of Elliot Brother Company, London. There is another big Conference Room adjacent to the Board Room. Now, all the meetings are held in conference room. On 2nd floor, the third most important room is Record Room, which is used for keeping the records of the original proceeding and secret files. All the proceedings from 1893 till to date are kept here.
This symbol of history is still in its original shape.