Exim trade in Kochi seek more mainline ship service

V Sajeev Kumar Kochi | Updated on December 10, 2020

Colombo has been hit by the fall-out of the pandemic and a strike called by port workers recently had escalated the logjam   -  The Hindu

The export-import (EXIM) trade in Cochin Port is pushing shipping lines to start main line services in the wake of the worsening congestion at Colombo Port through which India ships three-fourths of its transshipment cargo.

The demand for direct services from Cochin Port comes after feeder ship operators plying between Cochin and Colombo cut services by half.

Colombo, a regional transshipment hub, has been hit by the fall-out of the pandemic, and a strike called by port workers recently had escalated the logjam, further delaying the turnaround of mainline vessels for transshipment.

Cochin Port Users Forum has asked shipping lines to connect their feeder service operating between India’s East-West routes to Cochin Port and start direct service with transshipment cargo, thereby avoiding Colombo Port.

Prakash Iyer, Chairman of the Users Forum told BusinessLine that the trade is losing heavily because of the delay in Colombo, resulting in a surge in freight rate to $4,000 for 40-ft containers and $2,300 for 20-ft containers. The increase was almost 100 per cent compared to 2019 rates, he said.

To ease the situation, Iyer urged the authorities to make alternate arrangements for starting a common feeder service between Kochi and Singapore so that transshipment cargoes from these regions can be moved from Far Eastern ports. He also pointed out that the absence of empties has forced exporters to bring in boxes by road and move it to Chennai for sailing, incurring extra costs.

P Subramaniam, President, Coimbatore Custom House and Steamer Agents Association urged feeder vessel operators to ensure scheduled sailings between Kochi and Colombo and asked the terminal operator to give prioritised berthing for the time being.

He also requested the Cochin Port Trust authorities and the terminal operator to consider complete waiver of terminal ground rent as a temporary relief for the users.

“The port and DP World are in discussions with two major shipping lines for bringing direct mainline services. We are hopeful of getting those in the interim, ad hoc calls of mainline and feeders to continue, which will help the trade”, a senior official in the port said. An ad hoc feeder vessel is expected to call next week. Shipping lines are also evaluating various options for routing their containers, the official said adding, that the port is ready to facilitate in case of any support that the lines may require.

Kerala’s seafood and coir exporters have also been hit ahead of the Christmas and New Year season. The situation has led to shortage of refrigerated containers, missed schedules and inventory holding has forced buyers to cancel orders, according to marine food product exporters.

Published on December 10, 2020

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