Power ship to supply electricity-starved Pakistan

The world's largest ship-based power plant will begin supplying Pakistan with electricity next month to try to mitigate the country's crippling shortages, a company official said Friday.

The new supply still won't come close to ending the energy crisis that plagues Pakistan, increasing widespread public frustration with the U.S.-allied government as it struggles to contain the Taliban insurgency.

The ship, which burns furnace oil, will generate about 230 megawatts for the national power grid, said Asad Mahmood, a spokesman for the vessel's Turkish owner Karkey Karadeniz Electrik.

The owner has a five-year contract to sell power to the deeply indebted Pakistani national power company. Mahmood did not disclose the price of the contract.

Now anchored off the southern port city Karachi, the Kaya Bey will begin feeding into the national grid within four weeks after a dedication ceremony Sunday, Mahmood said.

Still, the ship's contribution will only make a dent in the overall power crisis. Pakistan's energy demands outstrip supply by an estimated 5,000 MW, thanks to lack of investment, soaring usage and a crumbling electricity generation infrastructure that heavily relies on hydropower.

Power outages last up to 16 hours per day in some areas and damage industrial growth. The suffering is worst in summer, when the temperatures soar but power cuts mean fans and air conditioners won't work.

The national power company recently raised its rates by 2 percent, capping two years of increases that have nearly doubled the cost of electricity for consumers.

Authorities have said the price hikes — pushed by international donors — are necessary because the former military government froze rates for years and many state agencies have failed to pay their bills, leading to debt of more than $4.5 billion and curtailing Pakistan's ability to invest in new power plants.