Shortage of shipping containers in Ludhiana

Pandemic-induced countrywide lockdown followed by trade disruption to blame

Shortage of shipping containers in Ludhiana

Vijay C Roy

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 18

The pandemic-induced lockdown, followed by trade disruption, especially fall in imports, has led to shortage of containers in Ludhiana, affecting exports from Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and J&K.

Due to the trade disruption, exporters have to wait for 5 to 10 days for containers as compared to 0-1 day during the pre-Covid times.

10-day waiting

Due to the trade disruption, exporters have to wait for 5 to 10 days for containers as compared to waiting period of 0-1 day during the pre-Covid times.

The lockdown led to a sharp drop in imports. Normally, the containers used for imports are deployed for exports as exporters have to bear additional transportation cost if they bring empty containers from the ports.

According to industry, there has been a surge in industrial activity in Ludhiana and surrounding towns after the lockdown was lifted. It also led to surge in exports as the traders had to meet export obligations. As a result, the demand for containers also shot up.

“There is a shortage of containers in Ludhiana because imports have dropped and exports have started picking up,” said Amit Goswami, director, Euro Forge (Punjab).

Ludhiana has five fully functional Inland Container Depots (ICDs) with a capacity to handle over 25,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent unit) per month. The corporates located in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and J&K are dependent on Ludhiana ICDs for exports besides Delhi.

“During the pre-Covid days, the ICDs in Ludhiana used to handle around 500 containers for imports and 300 containers for exports per day and the containers were available instantly. However, due to the trade disruption the scenario is entirely different now and almost 400-500 containers are required for exports daily,” said Ajay Thakur, a customs clearing agent.

In July, the fall in imports was steeper at 28.4%. Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust in Mumbai — the country’s largest container port — saw exports exceeding imports by 41,600 TEUs in July.

Trade insiders said the container shortage will persist until imports from China and other countries pick up. “It is anticipated that an increase in imports ahead of Diwali may increase container availability and help cool off freight,” said another customs clearing agent.

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