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Transporters strike at JNPT could box the exim trade

Exporters and importers shipping their container cargo through Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) near Mumbai could face delays and extra costs, with transport operators taking their trucks off the roads from Wednesday.

The strikers want JNPT, India’s biggest container port, to scrap a new transport arrangement that was rolled out on May 1.

As many as 11 local transport associations comprising some 1,000 small transporters owning about 17,000 tractor trailers that haul containers to and from the port are agitating against the new transport solution finalised by JNPT to evacuate direct port delivery (DPD) containers from the port.

A meeting between the striking transporters and officials of JNPT on Wednesday failed to throw up any solution, said Pravin Paithankar, president of the Maharashtra Heavy Vehicle and Inter-State Container Operators’ Association, one of the agitating associations.

“The entire port movement is affected. We have stopped vehicle movement to the port,” he said.

“It is impacting port operations because there is no traffic, no road movement,” said an official at one of the five terminals operating at JNPT.

Roads leading to JNPT, which are always full with container-laden trucks, are wearing a deserted look since the strike began on Wednesday.

Of the 4.833 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) handled at JNPT in FY18, more than 3.6 million TEUs were evacuated by road. As much as 6,000 TEUs each are brought in and taken out of the port daily on some 10,000 trucks.

Exclusive rights

From May 1, JNPT granted exclusive rights to four different transport operators to move DPD import containers to five key hinterland centres spread across Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and Goa, which has become a threat to small transporters servicing JNPT since it started operations in 1989.

Since the stoppage of vehicle movement, the container yards are almost full. “That means pendency will go up,” Paithankar said.

Container ships have not been diverted yet, but it will start if the strike gets prolonged, as ships will not be able to offload containers on to the wharves due to space constraints for further evacuation.

The new transporters selected by JNPT have not been able to start full-fledged operations, according to trade sources “because they are not equipped yet”.

“If the strike continues, export inventory will run out in a couple of days and the import inventory will go up. If the tractor trailers don’t come in, either to pick up imports or bring in exports, and ships keeps discharging imports, the vessels won’t have any exports to carry,” said the terminal executive.

The Shipping Ministry, though, is in no mood to relent. “DPD is a government policy. Many government agencies were involved in the finalisation of the transport solution. Besides, DPD, a door delivery concept, is the global norm for movement of containers. It has to be implemented sooner or later,” a government official said.

Source: The Hindu Business Line

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