We do foresee an impact on all businesses on account of the lockdown and are continually assessing the situation. Since Indian ports and CFSs as well as logistics services form a part of the Essential Services Act, they are operational as of now, but face challenges on a continuous basis due to lack of clarity from many local authorities. This lack of clarity has also impacted trucking activities as drivers have left transportation organisations to return to their families, residing in various States. The paucity of drivers has affected import deliveries -- both direct port deliveries and from CFSs. So, CFSs went all out to hold and bring back some drivers assuring them of their health and safety, while evacuating containers from the port to the CFS so as to minimise the impact on ports.

A point to note is that the CFSs, through their association, have come forward with a gesture to waive off ground rent charges for a certain period, while requesting all importers to evacuate containers from the CFSs as these are likely to get choked soon and this could further impact the ports getting choked.

Exports, on the other hand, have been adversely affected due to the slowdown/shutdown of factories owing to non-availability of labour. Ship owners are contemplating not to dock at Indian ports as post off-loading of import containers, they have to go out without export containers. This could also lead to an increase in freight rates for imports to cover up for their export leg cost.

Having said this, with the intervention of various associations in coordination with the logistics secretary and various ministries, the Union Home Secretary and Shipping Ministry have released a notice that transportation of all goods -- essential and non-essential -- shouldn't be restricted at State borders. The various State governments are expected to step up to enable this and hopefully the situation will be better soon.

We at Allcargo have been strictly complying with all regulatory precautions, implementing health and safety measures like providing masks, sanitisers, regular disinfection and temperature checks for staff and visitors at all our CFSs and warehousing facilities, which are being kept fully operational. Only minimum staff is maintained at the facilities while the rest operate from home.

We have intensified efforts to keep customers’ businesses moving by enabling teams to work remotely and adapting digital tools and technology like our ECU360 platform. E-Bill of Lading,E-Delivery Order and E-Payments facilities are available for customers. An innovative approach, optimising operations digitally, and relying on flexible and scalable business continuity and contingency plans seems to be the best way ahead for stakeholders in the logistics industry.

As told to BusinessLine