Operations at container freight stations (CFS) in Chennai and Thoothukudi remain disrupted as they continue to deal with the aftermath of the recent heavy rains. The deluge dumped by Cyclone Michaung in Chennai and the North-East monsoon in Thoothukudi led to extensive waterlogging and damage to cargo at the CFSs.

There are around 30 CFSs in North Chennai and 16 in Thoothukudi, which serve as a warehouse for goods awaiting shipping through containers. They play a vital role in consolidating cargo that is not large enough to fill an entire container on its own (less-than-container load cargo) and serve as temporary storage for import and export goods.

The operational challenges at the CFSs spilled over to the ports, impeding the flow of containers. 

The Chennai chapter of the National Association of Container Freight Stations reported difficulties at Chennai port caused by the cyclonic after-effects, leading to congestion and delays in container evacuation. Flooding in North Chennai left several CFSs inoperable for four to five days, impacting container movement. 

Terminals, attempting to accommodate vessels at the outer anchorage, became overcrowded. They imposed restrictions on the inward movement of vehicles carrying containers for export and the movement of import-laden vehicles to CFSs. This worsened the delay in container delivery and congestion at the terminals, according to the association.

In Thoothukudi, operations were halted due to power outages caused by waterlogging. Efforts are underway to restore normalcy, with generators used to pump out water from the facilities. Operations are expected to resume in a day or two.

Once conditions stabilise, a comprehensive survey will be undertaken to assess the fallout of the rains on the region’s cargo sector. Initial estimates suggest potential losses exceeding ₹1,000 crore in both Chennai and Thoothukudi. The lingering effects of the disruptions are causing delays in truck movements from terminals to CFSs, exacerbating the challenges faced by the container trade.