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India’s exporters continue to reel under container shortage, despite additional measures

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MUMBAI : Despite additional measures taken by the world’s shipping lines to help India’s economic recovery, container shortage continues to haunt exporters. Though not as much as it would have in the absence of the additional measures.

Maersk, the world’s largest shipping line, moved over 2.15 lakh empty containers from locations of surplus to the deficit locations from January-August 2021, it was reported. However, the container shortage still continues to undermine the country’s exporters. And it might get worse during the upcoming festive season.

“Maersk has repositioned empty containers like never before; 215,000 containers repositioned in the first eight months of 2021 into India to support economic growth,” Maersk said in its monthly market update.

In countries with more exports than imports, the pandemic has severely impacted container shipping and global supply chains. Congestion at ports Asia, Europe, and Asia, disrupted sailing schedules, and container shortage in exporting countries have created severe disruptions, Maersk said.

In the first half of 2021, India’s exports were 40 percent higher than its imports. Higher exports mean more containers. But as the world reels under the shortage of containers after demand revived in the post-pandemic period, shipping lines have run out of containers.

The global economy remains robust; however, IHS Markit’s PMI manufacturing indicators suggest the pace of recovery has softened a bit. Inventory levels in the US and Europe are at their lowest levels. “This means even once retail demand declines, we will see cargo volumes continue to remain strong as inventory levels need to be rebuilt,” it said.

Shipping companies are trying hard not to impede India’s economic recovery. Several other shipping lines have repositioned containers. And Maersk has introduced over six lakh new containers since July 2020, reported. While these efforts have partially pulled India out of the glut, exporters are still suffering.

“We have tripled the number of dry freight containers in our fleet during the last few months to support our customers’ export requirements,” Maersk said. However, increasing the number of containers is no longer sufficient to meet the overall demand. So “it remains critically important that import containers are turned around as quickly as possible.”

Besides, the companies are also trying to reduce the dwell time. Dwell time is the time containers spend waiting for the transport. Reducing dwell time means the containers can be freed up sooner for other cargoes.

Maersk sees container shortage increasing as “China’s October Golden Week, Christmas, and Chinese New Year will bolster demand for container shipping for the last quarter of 2021,” it said.

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