Shortage of containers has now eased in the country, said Pawan Agarwal, Special Secretary in the Logistics Division, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, during a press meet on Tuesday.

In March, almost 58 per cent additional (year-on-year) exports has been handled, which is about 17-18 per cent more than the level seen during March 2019 (pre-Covid), according to the Container Shipping Lines Association (India) (CSLA).

During a review with the Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) and CSLA on April 15, the exporters body said that due to coordinated efforts, the issue of shortage of containers has almost been sorted out, except some shortage of food-grade containers for export of tea, coffee or spices. This is localised to southern ports (Kochi/Tuticorin/Chennai/Mangaluru), which CSLA apprised is a long term issue due to import deficit at these ports.

Also read: Container shortage, rising freight rates hit pharmaceutical exports

Further, CSLA said that the impact of Suez Canal blockade has subsided. The bunching was handled well by Indian ports mainly due to timely advance intimation, after the meeting on March 26.

Steps taken

In coordination with shipping lines, steps were taken to reposition empty containers in India on an urgent basis.

Consequently, 100,000 empty containers were repositioned on Indian ports from across the world by the shipping lines.

With effect from April 1, 2021, the haulage charges of empty containers from port to hinterland have been reduced by 50 per cent by the Container Corporation of India (Concor) through a discount scheme. This is expected to result in reduction of overall shipping cost.

Quarantine time dropped

In early 2020, the quarantine period applicable on ships arriving from China was 14 days. Quarantine period — which is the time spent by seafarers on board in isolation after departure from China — was reduced to the extent of five-seven days, after a detailed discussion with the Ministry of Shipping, Ports and Waterways and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

In coordination with customs, a special drive was launched for expedited clearance of unclaimed or uncleared cargo. Consequently, more than 2000 empty containers were released.

Demand-supply match

The Logistics Division in partnership with FIEO, EPCs and shipping lines has also coordinated the development of a portal for matching demand and supply of containers.

The first version of this portal has been made available on FIEO website and has received excellent response from exporters. The portal has been a significant contributor in planning supply of containers during March 2021.

Concor has already issued an order of 2000 containers to BHEL, and Braithwaite and Co. Ltd. Discussions are on with steel manufacturers for producing COR-TEN steel in India at competitive prices and with Railway wagon manufacturers or BHEL or private manufacturers (DCM-Hyundai, Balmer and Lawrie) to set up production lines for indigenous manufacturing of containers.

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