Cargo accumulates at Chennai Port amid 21-day lockdown

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India’s third biggest port continues to face congestion related issues with cargo lying unattended, although efforts are being made to transport idle cargo through rail as roads are shut at the state borders as part of the ongoing 21-day lockdown.

The volume of containers both coming in and going out of Chennai Port has declined 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.

The Chairman of the National Association of Container Freight Stations (NAFCS), Chennai Chapter, MS Arun said that container freight stations (CFSs) 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,” Arun said.

“There are around 28 CFS in and around Chennai which can cater to 1,000 to 2,000 containers. We have also waived storage charges and it was announced last week itself,” Arun added.

Following the lockdown, the piling up of containers and cargo is also due to the non-availability of drivers and labourers to ship them out. This has resulted in cargo owners suspending their operations leading to the detention of containers by shipping lines, sources at the port informed.

Chennai Port handles around 1.5 mn twenty foot equivalents (TEUs) a year. The port serves Chennai, the 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 via Chennai to ports in Southeast Asia.

It has the honour of being the location for India’s first dedicated container terminal, which opened in 1983. It has since been privatised, with DP World being awarded the concession. Its second container terminal opened in 2009 and is run by PSA International.

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