CHENNAI: Chennai Port is facing congestion with cargo lying unattended and
efforts are being made to transport it through rail after roads were shut at the state borders as part of the ongoing 21-day lockdown.
The volume of containers both coming in and going out of the port has fallen by more than 50 per cent. "Usually we get an inflow of 1600 containers and an outflow of 1800 containers. Now this has come down to 600 incoming containers and 700 to 900 outgoing containers," a port official said.
Chennai port handles around 1.5 million TEUs a year and serves Chennai, special economic zones around the city, Bengaluru, southern Andhra Pradesh and parts of southern Tamil Nadu. Nearly 50 per cent of the container traffic is transshipped from Chennai to ports in Southeast Asia.
The piling up of containers and cargo is also due to the non-availability of drivers and labourers to ship them out following the lockdown. This has resulted in cargo owners suspending their operations leading to the detention of containers by shipping lines, port sources said.
However, the chairman of the National Association of Container Freight Stations (NAFCS), Chennai Chapter, MS Arun told Express that container freight stations (CFS) had been raising the issue with Chennai Customs to give clearance to clear up the containers that are piling up in the port.
"Initially, the customs officials delayed clearing the containers. Now they are on the verge of giving the clearance. We will be able to clear the cargo in the next two to three days," he said. There are around 28 CFS in and around Chennai which can cater to 1,000 to 2,000 containers, he added. “We have also waived storage charges and it was announced last week itself,” said Arun.
Kamarajar Port chairman Sunil Paliwal said the port doesn’t have a heavy volume of containers. Initially, the port faced issues at Vallur three days ago and this was immediately sorted out with the intervention of the district collector and superintendent of police, he said.
Meanwhile, Director General of Shipping Amitabh Kumar has advised shipping lines not to impose any container detention charges on import shipments from March 22 to April 14. Shipping lines are also urged not to impose any additional charges till the lockdown continues. This comes as there were claims that a few shipping lines were planning to charge $100 to $200 per 20 feet container.
The lockdown has posed challenges to ship surveyors, who find it difficult to reach the port due to the restrictions, says the executive director of the Admiralty Marine Services, Captain R M Kapoor. Ship surveyors who play a crucial role before loading and offloading of cargo by certifying the quality and quantity of cargo are facing challenges as their movement is restricted by the cops, he said.