Cargo movement hit as truck drivers head to villages, on Covid-19 fears

P Manoj Mumbai | Updated on March 22, 2020 Published on March 22, 2020

The fewer number of drivers is posing problems in taking out import containers landing at JNPT, India’s busiest container gateway.

A massive shortage of truck drivers is starting to bite India’s trade, forcing port operators to take steps to deal with issues in evacuation of cargo.

“About 60 per cent of the truck drivers carting cargo containers to and from Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) have fled to the villages fearing the coronavirus outbreak,” said Pravin Paithankar, President of the Maharashtra Heavy Vehicle and Inter-State Container Operators’ Association.

“These truck drivers, who hail mainly from northern India, particularly Uttar Pradesh, are unlikely to return till at least June,” he said. As many as 15,000 truck drivers move cargo from various parts of the country into Maharashtra.

Paithankar said that the planned stoppage in movement of long-distance passenger trains from Mumbai may prevent more drivers from going to the villages.

The fewer number of drivers is posing problems in taking out import containers landing at JNPT, India’s busiest container gateway.

Extending free storage period

“With the Covid-19 situation, many users are currently facing difficulties in arranging transport to evacuate containers from our terminal due to a shortage of manpower and resources,” said a trade advisory issued by Bharat Mumbai Container Terminals Pvt Ltd (BMCT), one of five container terminals operating at JNPT and a unit of Singapore’s PSA International Pte Ltd, the world’s top container port operator.

“To assist the trade and end-users, BMCT is extending the free storage period of all import containers, laden and empty, for an additional three days until March 31. We are continuing to monitor the situation closely and will review this again before March 31, depending on utilisation and other factors,” the advisory said.

PSA will announce a similar step shortly at its container terminal in V O Chidambaranar Port Trust in Thoothukudi, a PSA India spokesman said.

The Central government-run 12 major ports and some top private ports and terminal operators are expected to announce similar customer-friendly measures to ease the situation, an executive with a private port operating company said.

Published on March 22, 2020
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