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Karachi shipbuilders waiting for tide that lifts their boats higher

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Muhammad Khan, a resident of Machar Colony — a coastal town tied to the shipbuilding industry for a long time — was only 15 when he joined the boatyard, where new seafaring vessels are built from keel to the mast and old ones, including modern-day launches, are brought in for all kinds of repairs.

“Shipbuilding is a craft as old as Hazrat Noah (AS),” he tells Geo.tv, “Our elders chose this profession many decades ago and we are following in their footsteps.”

A variety of seafaring vessels are constructed at this boatyard. These include ships, boats, launches, and even fishing trawlers. However, almost everything involved in getting these ships up from the ground and into the sea is done by hand.

“We are deeply disappointed in the government for not providing the requisite facilities to shipbuilders, even the injured workers. Because of this, many skilled workers have given up on their craft and taken up new lines of work,” laments Khan.

According to him, this business is not even registered due to which the workers have to face problems.

However, Karachi’s boatbuilders take all these challenges in stride and do not let themselves be daunted by the vagaries of the times.

Boatmakers working on seafaring vessels in Karachi. — Facebook screengrab/Geo Digital
Boatmakers working on seafaring vessels in Karachi. — Facebook screengrab/Geo Digital

The unmatched skill of these artisans is reflected in the fact that while shipbuilding across the world is done with the help of boat-building plans (blueprints), Karachi’s boatbuilders do not rely on them.

Aoun Ali, another shipwright in the colony, says he was merely 14 when he joined his father in this profession. Despite having a BSc in Mathematics, Aoun chose to follow in his forefathers’ footsteps to make a career out of boat building.

At first, he would make regular boat-building plans. “However, now the skill has improved beyond architecture and engineering. Shipbuilding is second nature to us now and we no longer need blueprints to do it,” he says proudly.

The picture shows boats standing at a boatyard in Karachi. — Facebook screengrab/Geo Digital
The picture shows boats standing at a boatyard in Karachi. — Facebook screengrab/Geo Digital 

That is not to say the shipbuilders have entirely discarded the use of blueprints. Aoun says that if any official organisation commissions any work, the builders use plans. “For instance,” he adds, “we prepared boats for Karachi Port, which we worked on using boat-building plans given to us by the institution. It’s just that our shipbuilders are not dependent on maps and can do their work skillfully without having to use too.”

Speaking on the matter of the types of wood used in the process, Aoun informs Geo.tv that initially Burma teak wood from Burma was used in shipbuilding.

“However, after it became expensive, we began to use pine wood from Malaysia. When that too became too costly, we began to import wood from Congo for the hull of the ship, and local wood for its structure.”

For all their skills, the shipbuilders do not shy away from admitting that the real challenge in the whole process is wood cutting, which is the most crucial and dangerous part of the profession.

Karachi shipbuilders waiting for tide that lifts their boats higher

Manzoor Ahmed, another worker in the Colony, has spent a large part of his youth chopping wood in the yard. He says that the first time he saw the cutting of wood, he was stunned and wondered how he would handle the wood’s weight. “But when a person sets his mind to a task,” he chuckles, “Allah gives him the courage.”

He says that when the wood breaks, like a bare sword it can hit any part of the body. “But after years of experience, we are not afraid anymore.”

However, Manzoor highlights how the rising inflation has affected the livelihood of these builders. “In my early days, I worked as a helper for Rs600 a week … now the labourers are paid Rs6,000 a week in the boatyard,” he reflects.

However, shipbuilding is merely one aspect of their job. At the end of the day, the sea is everything to these shipbuilders: friend, comrade, and enemy. As soon as the water level rises, these shipbuilders push their creations into the ocean, hoping that God will protect them and their handiwork.

The picture shows boats being built at a boatyard in Karachi. — Facebook screengrab/Geo Digital
The picture shows boats being built at a boatyard in Karachi. — Facebook screengrab/Geo Digital 

After the launches are ready, they are brought to the shore with the help of cranes. From here, Javed Hashmi and his team take over. A crew of 20 to 25 people works to launch the ships into the ocean.

Hashmi too has been associated with this work since his childhood. His lifelong experience as a seaman allows him to deeply understand the immensity as well as the profundity of the ocean.

“The seawater rises on the first and fifteenth days of the moon,” he informs Geo.tv.

“As soon as the water rises,” Hashmi continues, “crew members lower the ship into the sea with the help of a crane and greased planks, which are slid under the vessel while it is still on the shore. Then it is handed over to the sea with the help of two boats.”

Hashmi says that he and his entire crew wait for the water to rise and pray that the ship does not hit the seabed. If the water level is low, the ships get stuck in the seabed and it takes many months to get them out.

The story of these beach-dwelling boatbuilders, carving their living out of the finest of the seaworthy woods, while keeping their ears to the breezy whispers of the whimsical as well as the dreadful ocean, reads like a romance, but in this tale, Adam’s son is not waiting for the descent of a fairy, but for the ascent of the sea.

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Zaidong, the ambassador, said China will fully back Pakistan’s counterterrorism operations.

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Reaffirming on Thursday that China will provide Pakistan with unwavering support in its fight against terrorism is Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Jiang Zaidong.

In an interview that was broadcast on television, the ambassador promised to cooperate with Pakistan and said that China will protect the interests and safety of the citizens of the two friendly nations.

Zaidong underscored that efforts to undermine the two nations’ bilateral relationship would be thwarted by China’s cooperation with Pakistan.

Also, he emphasized how crucial China-Pakistan relations have become strategically given the changing nature of the world.

In highlighting the transformative impact of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the ambassador reaffirmed his nation’s commitment to seeing it through.

In addition to creating thousands of employment, he said, “the CPEC has facilitated significant advancements in power generation and transportation infrastructure with over $25 billion in direct investments and substantial infrastructure development.”

Zaidong stressed the value of sharing ideas and knowledge between Pakistan and China, acknowledging their shared security objectives.

Stressing that both countries have a common future, he envisioned their partnership having a greater social impact.

Concerning the terrorist attack on Chinese nationals [working on the Dasu dam], the ambassador expressed gratitude to the Pakistani people for their condolences and sympathy and commended the government for its prompt action.

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Mild rain in Lahore improves the weather

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Early on Friday, light rain in the province capital Lahore and its surrounding areas improved the weather.

But rain also led to power outages in several areas of Lahore, as multiple feeders of the Lahore Electric Supply Company (LESCO) blew, leaving whole sections of the city without power.

Details show that rain was observed in a number of locations throughout the city, including Model Town, Gulberg, Garden Town, Mall Road, Lakshmi Chowk, Gulshan Ravi, Jail Road, and Sanda.

However, the Met Office has forecasted an additional day of rain for the city during the next 24.

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The government will begin coordinated action against lawbreakers in the Katcha region

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On Friday, Mohsin Naqvi, the interior minister, announced that the government would begin a coordinated operation in the Katcha region to eradicate the miscreants for good.

He stated that collaborative efforts in the Katcha region will make use of contemporary technologies, including drones.

According to Mohsin Naqvi, all security agencies, including the police, should make sure that SOPs are fully implemented in order to protect Chinese nationals living in Pakistan.

He declared that any carelessness in this respect will not be accepted at all while presiding over a meeting to review the National Action Plan’s implementation at NACTA headquarters in Islamabad.

According to Naqvi, failure to follow the SOPs for the safety of foreign nationals will result in severe disciplinary action.

“We have to outfit our departments with cutting-edge technology to eradicate terrorism,” stated the interior minister. He declared that the provinces will receive all the assistance from the federation in this area.

Anti-state forces will be permanently driven out of the Katcha region, according to Naqvi. The interior minister expressed satisfaction with the anti-smuggling operations and stated that all ministries need to make sure that smugglers face stern legal action.

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