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Container vessels to bypass Colombo Port for the lack of insufficient container transport vehicles

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Herons Logistics

COLOMBO : The Colombo Port is becoming increasingly congested as a result of the lack of insufficient container transport vehicles to move containers within and clear them out. This is likely to aggravate conditions for shipping lines that will bypass Colombo to avoid delays that have been receiving bad publicity lately.

Since last week the container transporters have increased their charges by 60 per cent and have also limited the number of vehicles to 35 per cent that operate even within the Western Province due to the scarcity of fuel in the local market, Container Transport Association President Sanath K. Manjula told news-person. These vehicles are the only mode of moving containers between terminals at the port and taking goods to and from the port as well.

He complained that there has not been any priority allocated for them to obtain fuel and as a result they are compelled to stay in long queues for about two days at a time.

It is learnt that there had been delays in inter terminal trucking, or the moving of containers between terminals, in the course of last month and a half.

But now with less container transport vehicles available, the situation has aggravated to such an extent that some containers have missed getting loaded onto their connecting vessels. Missing connections in this manner is a serious concern, industry persons point out adding that at a moment when ships are absolutely full not loading the cargo into vessels that have capacity means they miss their opportunity.

“If the missed connections are not addressed and berthing delays are aggravated then some of the shipping lines will skip Colombo,” he noted.

For several months last year while the shortage of dollars to clear consignments caused congestion the Colombo port is now faced with this new crisis.

The build-up of containers at the port is affecting the productivity as a result of which terminals are not cleared on time causing a “huge congestion.”

Over 100 per cent of the port capacity is being utilised which is not a good sign as the situation can aggravate causing severe congestion and productivity will slow down, industry persons noted.

It is learnt that the productivity at the port has also plummeted from 35 mph (movements per hour) at Colombo International Container Terminal (CICT) to around 25 mph, SAGT from 30mph to 20mph and JCT from 25mph to below 20 mph.

As a result the turnaround time of ships are impacted causing delays at the port and this is leading to berthing delays as well of about 12- 18 hours.

For the last year and a half vessels have been bypassing Colombo mainly due to delays in other ports and now with the congestion building up causing delays this could aggravate the situation

Analysts point out that vessel not calling the Colombo Port is also a loss to importers and exporters as opposed to the dollar loss to shipping lines.

In the meantime, the restriction of imports can have a further impact as some of these items may be on water or shipped or contracted and then by the time they reach Colombo it could cause problems.

In addition, local agents point out that the impact of the dollar crisis is also severely affecting their inability to remit funds to their principals that is already delayed by about two to three months.

As a result shipping lines have demanded export freight to be paid in US dollars and this is expected to ease the situation from February onwards.

However, already about US$10 million is held up in freight cost pending conversion to dollars to principals which is about a three month backlog.

The respective terminals CICT, SAGT and JCT are constantly in discussion on how to obtain extra fuel to the port to ensure the trucks can be fuelled and have been approaching the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) in this respect.

The inter terminal trucking is causing a huge congestion at the terminals as they await connections and moreover as a result of the non-availability of spare parts container transporters are finding it difficult to operate in addition to the fuel crisis.

The terminals are trying to address the situation by talking to their clients as importers struggle to get the vessels.

But should the congestion of containers continue due to delays then vessels will bypass Colombo.

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