Cochin Port users urge Shipping Ministry to let SCI re-enter international services

V Sajeev Kumar Kochi | Updated on September 20, 2021

The rise in blank sailings from Indian ports has prompted the shipping fraternity in Kochi to seek Shipping Ministry’s intervention in strengthening the Shipping Corporation of India.

A blank sailing happens when an ocean line service operator decides to cancel a call or skip a particular port, region or possibly an entire leg on the scheduled route. Customers who have been waiting to load or off-load cargo will have to wait for the next sailing to pick up or drop off their cargo.

The Ministry should take efforts to help the public sector SCI to re-enter in the international shipping services as in the past for the support of domestic trade, Prakash Iyer, Chairman, Cochin Port Users Forum said.

Blank sailings are costing the shipping trade dearly including steamer agents, forwarders, feeder operators, CHA’s, terminals etc especially in the pandemic times where the business has considerably declined.

Congestion at ports

Added to this is the congestion and losses because of the Suez Canal blockage recently that led to the bunching of ships across global ports for cargo discharge and loadings, he said.

This has led to the delay in vessels calling at Kochi. Though there are options to move via Colombo Port, he pointed out that the neighbouring port itself is not receiving adequate calls by the lines due to blank sailings.

CS Kartha, former president of Cochin Steamer Agents Association cited the closing down of factories across the globe and functioning of ports with minimum staff due to Covid has led to a slowdown in box movement in many global ports. This, in turn, has forced vessels to wait for cargo at the outer anchorage, he said, adding that merger of carriers a few years back also a contributing factor for the scarcity of ships and services.

The hike in charter rates coupled with delays and congestions at ports and rising cost of operations have forced customers to incur additional costs. The acceptance of exports to the US is now almost nil from Kochi, while the East Coast ports are struggling to get little space over Mundra or Colombo. The connectivity through Chennai port is also being tried out by few carriers to ease out the congestion, but still unable to manage cargo flow. The emerging situation has affected foreign exchange earnings to the country, a shipping source said.

Published on September 20, 2021

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