Karachi Harbor, which occupies the lower part of Chinna Creek, has been widened, deepened and considerably improved. It is divided into a lower and upper harbor with principal commercial facilities located on both sides of the upper harbor. The harbor is narrow (minimum 250 yd (229 m) -- maximum 500 yd (457 m)) and heavily congested. A pilot is required and highly recommended. Additionally, it was reported as recently as 1975 that several wrecks were charted incorrectly and that ships should give them a berth of one-half mile. On incoming tidal currents during the southwest monsoon, a considerable swell rolls into the lower harbor near Manora Point. Dredging is continuously in progress to maintain charted depths, but silting is liable to occur during the southwest monsoon.
The Karachi Naval Dockyard, also refers as PN Dockyard, is a naval submarine base located adjacent to the commercial Karachi Shipyard and the PNS Qasim. The Submarine base is the only submarine construction base for the Pakistan Navy. The most important organ of Logistics Command, PN Dockyard represents the Repair and Maintenance Group. At the time of independence, Pakistan Navy had no facility forrepair and rebuild of her small fleet, comprising of World War II vintage ships. PN ships were sent to Singapore, Malta and UK for their normal repairs, refits and dockings. To save huge financial effects on National Exchequer and to develop indigenous capability / capacity of repair, rebuild and construction, PN Dockyard was established in 1947 as Independent base workshop, with a total workforce of only 150 workers, 7 machines and a mobile workshop van. From modest beginning, it transpired into a modern dockyard where state of the art submarines have been constructed in collaboration with modern yards of the world. Over the years it has become a unique industrial and engineering complex, which by 2015 consisted of 90 work centers and docking facilities for ships and submarines, spread over an area of 73 Acres.
PN Dockyard has:
- 4 x Floating Docks with capacity ranging from 2000 - 4000 Tons
- 1 x Graving dock with capacity upto 3800 tons
- 1 x Marine Railway with capacity upto 1100 tons
Submarine Construction and Maintenance Departments has the capability / capacity to undertake repair, rebuild, maintenance & modifications of PN Submarines. There are 33 work centers which are capable of undertaking simultaneous rebuild of one AGOSTA Submarine and one Midget /X-craft. PN Dockyard undertook the construction of indigenously designed 180 tonnes Fast Patrol Boat, PNS LARKANA in collaboration with CSTC, China. LARKANA Class experience encouraged PN Dockyard to venture into missile craft construction on the same hull form. Thus JALALAT class missile craft,fitted with modern anti-ship missile, guns and a wide range of sensors were constructed in 1990s. In addition, construction of Mine Counter Measure Vessel PNS MUJAHID in 1990s and 03 ~ Midgets / X-crafts of 120 tonnes were built at the ship construction department of PN Dockyard with the assistance of M/S COSMOS Italy. The government on 03 June 2016 earmarked Rs 2300 mln in the Public Sector Development Programme (2016-17) for different ongoing schemes of the Defence Production Division to upgrade the Karachi Naval Dockyard, equipping it with state of the art facilities to handle all kind of ships and submarines in a more professional manner. According to the PSDP, the schemes approved by the Central Development Working Party (CDWP) on March 30, 2016, are being executed at an estimated cost of Rs 9,819 million witout any foreign financial assistance. Under the projects, the dockyard would be equipped with the ship lift, transfer system, associated machinery, equipment to provide docking and repair facilities to surface ships, submarines and commercial vessels of upto 7,781 tonnage.
The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for an attack on a naval facility in Karachi on 06 September 2014 that left one sailor and two attackers dead. Pakistani authorities did not disclose details about the attack on the Pakistan Naval Dockyard until late on September 8, when they announced that security guards had repelled militants armed with rocket launchers, assault rifles, and hand grenades. Naval commander Kamran Asif said four attackers were captured by security forces. After those militants were interrogated, search operations were launched in other parts of Pakistan, with authorities detaining an undisclosed number of people suspected of helping to plan the attack.
The total harbor extends about 3-1/2 n mi (6.5 km) north-northwestward and north-northeastward, and ranges from 250 to 500 yd (229 to 457 m) wide between the 20 ft (6.1 m) depth curves. The lower harbor is that portion from Manora Point to the southern end of East Wharf, about 1-1/2 n mi (2.8 km); its navigable channel is reduced, in general, to about 300 yd (274 m) by the banks extending from each side. The upper harbor extends northward and north-northeastward about 2 n mi (3.7 km) and has a navigable width of 300 to 400 yd (274 to 366 m) for most of its length.
In approaching Karachi from the south, there are no good landmarks while passing the delta of the Indus and land is not generally visible until Manora Point comes into view. This approach is particularly dangerous during the southwest monsoon because continuous haze combined with overcast skies make determination of ship's positions difficult. Strong cross currents are experienced during a flooding tide and silting has been very heavy in the channel paralleling the shipyard and naval dockyard. Caution should therefore be exercised during entry and exit because of the rapid silting and flood tide currents.
Getting underway from a Karachi wharf during the southwest monsoon is a problem. Winds up to 20 kt are common, and if a vessel is berthed at East Wharf, the wind sets the ship on the pier. U.S. Navy ships typically have been assigned to wharves 1, 2 or 3 , although these would not be as sheltered as the pierside wharves in the upper harbor.
The major source of pollution in the Karachi Harbor is via Lyari River, which drains huge quantity of untreated mixture of industrial/municipal wastewater into it. About 50 billion cubic meter of sea water enters and leaves the Harbour during a tidal cycle. Due to natural geographical situation of Karachi Harbour, marine pollutants are not completely flushed out into the open sea that makes the Harbour waters hazardous from many aspects. The Karachi Harbor has become one of the most highly polluted Harbors in the region. The untreated municipal and Industrial waste water enriched with a variety of marine pollutants affects the ecological system of adjoining area and poses serious health hazards. In addition, vessels berthed in the Harbor and Harbor infrastructure is also being seriously affected.
All Pakistan Navy [PN] platforms including Surface Ships, S/Ms, Fleet Tankers, Mine Hunters, Missile Boats and Auxiliary craft are berthed at Karachi Upper Harbor and Pakistan Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC) channel at PN Dockyard. Besides negative effects on human health and marine ecology, the polluted Harbour water is seriously affecting the life of these platforms. In addition, it also results into frequent repair/maintenance problems. It becomes difficult to quantify indirect losses to these platforms due to host of variables involved. However efforts have been made to arrive upon an estimated value to have an idea of indirect loss to national exchequer and highlight seriousness of the problem. The same is being explained in subsequent paragraphs.
Mild steel is used in the construction of most of PN vessels. The study conducted by PN Dockyard Laboratory on the rate of corrosion of mild steel shows that standard weight loss of mild steel in the open seawater is only 5.48 gram per square meter per day as compared to 9.20 gram per square meter per day in the Karachi Harbour waters. However, due to various hull preservation techniques this can be reduced but 100% preservation is not possible. Therefore, an estimated value of around 33% loss of ship life has been taken to arrive upon an estimated cost to have an idea of indirect loss to PN. Generally speaking, price of large naval platform in the International market, is around US $ 300 Million. These platforms are usually built for 25-30 years. Loss of 30% ships life as discussed about would means loss of 70.5-90 Million $ US per platform. PN maintains 08 large platforms and 06 submarines. Hence more than one Billion $ US is lost due to the pollution problems and this is huge burden on the national exchequer. These figures will further increase if we take into account small platforms having total number of 26 at present with PN. In other words this cost can be saved if by controlling the pollution in Karachi Harbor as per defined National Environmental Quality Standards (NEQS).
Hull preservation period of naval vessels is about 3 years but due to prevailing condition of Karachi Harbour water, it hardly lasts for one and half year. Therefore, the expenditure cost for hull preservation is almost doubled. It is for information that the one time cost for hull preservation of one fleet tanker is Rs. 10.50 million and for frigate the cost is Rs. 9.00 million. This includes dock charges, grid blasting, painting etc. Marine pollutants reduce economical life of machineries and auxiliaries. Fire and flush pumps, filters, pipes and seals become ineffective and due for frequent replacement in the polluted environment. This results in extra expenditure on their maintenance/replacement. Frequent machinery failures occur in seawater based machinery (i.e. sea suction pumps, fire pumps, DG intakes etc) due to presence of solid waste and plastic bags, thus affecting the efficiency of these systems. This also some time results into failure of some sensitive electronic components which are procured from abroad. Polluted water also reduces the life of Harbour infrastructure i.e. Jetties and docks etc. Huge amount is spent on regular maintenance and repair of the damaged Jetties. For example, at present Rs. 470 million are being spent to refurbish naval jetties along the PIDC channel. It can safely be said that one would have used these berths for another 10-15 years had the Harbor waters been kept in the defined limits. Presence of the floating material/object in the Harbour waters is a potential danger which can cause damage to fast moving platforms. The newly inducted VBSS boat propeller was damaged in the recent past and the same had to be procured from abroad. All the above problems results into enhanced non-operational time thus affecting the sea worthiness and fighting efficiency of these platforms.
As of March 2020, satellite images of Karachi naval dockyard indicated sea trials of an upgraded Pakistan Navy Agosta submarine might be ongoing as the dry docks hosting it was now empty. Additionally a new workshed construction is noted onsite as well.
As of 28 March 2020, satellite images of Karachi naval dockyard indicate 4/5 #PakistanNavy attack submarines are back to port while the missing one could still be continuing with its upgradation/testing.