Adani Ports move to refuse cargo containers from Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan unlikely to hurt trade

P Manoj Mumbai | Updated on October 11, 2021

FILE PHOTO: A general view of a container terminal is seen at Mundra Port   -  REUTERS

In the absence of a tracking mechanism, it is not possible to identify the country of origin of the boxes, they point out

Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone’s decision to stop handling export-import containerised cargo originating from Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, till further notice, in the wake of a nearly 3 tonnes drug haul at flagship Mundra Port, may not check the flow of drugs through ports, say shipping industry sources.

“Most of the containers originating from the three nations are coming to India via Dubai by changing the shipping documents,” said an executive with a Mumbai-based freight forwarding company.

“There is no method to identify whether they are coming from Iran, Afghanistan or Pakistan. There is no tracking mechanism,” the executive said, asking not to be identified.

In theory, the decision looks good, but in practice, there is no way they can stop it. The containers will continue to come from these places because the documents never come from these nations, he added.

The trade, though, is unlikely to be hit by the decision.

The Iranian ports of Bandar Abbas and Chabahar send chemicals and dry fruits, mostly dates, to India. Mundra port caters mainly to the northern hinterland and hence is seen as an ideal port for the landing of all Iranian goods.

“But, the effect of the restriction will be less as shippers will now start picking Iranian and Afghanistan cargo from Jebel Ali (Dubai) and APSEZ will have no control over cargo coming from there,” said an executive with a container shipping line.

Switch Bill of Lading

Importers will start changing the Bill of Lading at Jebel Ali by using a so-called Switch Bill of Lading, a common commercial practice followed in international trade to conceal the identity of the factory/manufacturer/producer from where the goods are procured while selling the goods to the importer. The purpose of the Switch Bill of Lading is to change the shipper information.

The restriction will come into force from November 15 and will also “apply to all terminals operated by APSEZ and including third party terminals at any APSEZ port till further notice”.

On September 16, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence seized 2,988.21 kg of heroin at Mundra Port.

The heroin was found in two containers declared as stuffed with ‘semi processed talc stones’ that originated from Afghanistan and were shipped to Mundra via the Bandar Abbas port in Iran. The case is being pursued by the National Investigation Agency.

Published on October 11, 2021

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