With truck drivers moving back to their home towns due to the Covid-19 lockdown, more than 50,000 sea containers are lying uncleared at the 23 Container Freight Stations (CFS) and private container terminals at the ports of Chennai, Kamajarar and Kattupalli.

For the speedy evacuation of containers, the Tamil Nadu police have offered to help in locating the drivers and bringing them safely to Chennai to ensure container movement starts immediately and the backlog is cleared in the next 10 days, said P Raveendran, Chairman, Chennai Port Trust (ChPT). It is critical that the containers are evacuated from CFSs and ports before the end of the lockdown on April 14, or else the mass evacuation of the boxes after the lockdown will lead to congestion on the roads, he told BusinessLine .

To find a solution to the problem, the ChPT, on Saturday, organised a meeting with various stakeholders, including officials from Tamil Nadu police, Chennai Corporation, trade associations, CFSs, and Custom house agents, said Raveendran.

P Thamarai Kannan, Additional Director General of Police (ADGP), requested the participants to give the drivers’ names and contact details. The Superintendents of Police in respective districts will ensure that necessary passes are issued to drivers to reach Chennai, he said.

On the free movement of trucks/trailers, the ADGP clarified that vehicles should display visible stickers on the wind screen, declaring them as essential cargo, and will be permitted by the police, said Raveendran.

Passes to be issued

Kapil Saratkar, Joint Commissioner of Police (North), has been nominated as Nodal Officer to issue the passes to the stakeholders during the lockdown period. Further, Rajasekar, Deputy Commissioner of Police (North), has been nominated as Nodal Officer, for operational issues such as empty container yard and container movement, said Raveendran.

Concurring with Raveendran on expeditious evacuation of containers, G Raghu Sankar of Southern India Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who was present in the meeting, said with roads being empty, the evacuation could happen quickly as the turnaround of vehicles will be fast.

Over 50 per cent of importers have cleared Customs formalities, but factories are still under lockdown and cannot take delivery of the cargo until April 14. Importers need to ensure that there are officials at the site to receive the cargo, he said.

An official with a large CFS said all the containers can be cleared in 10 days depending on the cash flow and transport supply after April 14. From March 22 to31, 14,000 boxes were moved by CFSs with only 5 per cent cleared as essential cargo such as pulses, vegetable oil, pharmaceutical, food products and reefer food products, he said.