Shipping lines may skip port to avoid revenue loss

Some shipping lines may skip or cut frequency of calls at Jawaharlal Nehru Port, as cargo handling operations at the country’s largest container port have been hit severely by the prolonged labour trouble at the port’s private terminals.

Captain Deepak Tiwari, President of the Container Shipping Lines Association (CSLA), said that the lines have been losing revenue as they are unable to load export containers.

In most cases, ships, after discharging the import containers, sail out without picking up export cargo as the loading takes more than double the normal time. In some cases, ships had to leave the port after discharging half the import containers and the remaining are unloaded at ports in Gujarat, he said.

The go-slow by workers of transport contractors at Gateway Terminals India (GTI), one of the two private terminals, for the past three weeks has affected productivity. Crane productivity has come down to 20-25 moves per hour, and the move counts allocated for each vessel has been reduced.

“We have met GTI officials but they appear helpless in resolving the issue,” said Capt Tiwari. Ships cannot wait at the port for days or operate without cargo. GTI, part of the APM terminals, handles 40 per cent of the JN port’s cargo.

Last month, Nahva Sheva International Container Terminal, the other private terminal run by DP World Dubai, also faced the same situation. Before the issue was resolved, trouble started at the GTI terminal, said a shipping agent.

According to exporters, their containers including reefers loaded with perishable cargoes have started piling up. About 2,000-3,000 export containers have been held up for over two weeks, said R. Venkatesh, Vice-President, Western India Shippers Association (WISA).

There is a long queue of trucks on the approach road to the JN Port. The queue has been five-seven km in the past few days, said another agent.

A spokesperson of WISA said abrupt closure of the terminal gates because of inadequate container yard space inside the Port, in turn, triggered road blocks leading to the terminals. It is reported that a truck, when it is lucky, manages to move about 2 km in 10 hours, he said.

He said the trouble began with the long-drawn strike at the NSICT in the middle of October, which was followed in the recent weeks by the go-slow at the GTI Terminal.

A WISA statement said shippers operating through the JN Port were facing the worst crisis at a time when exports are showing definite signs of a positive upsurge and the demands for Christmas cargoes from the US and Europe were growing.

Export gates at GTI have been shut for the last 10 days, leaving no alternative options for shipping lines and export houses.

Shipping lines have advised shippers that they would have to bear any additional cost charged by the terminal.

kurup.nk@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on November 14, 2013)
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