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Port congestion causing disruption to Indian trade, liner services skip calls

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MUMBAI : A battle of Container lines with growing service reliability challenges going on, due to connections out of India – the longer journey around southern Africa and congestion problems at hub ports en-route, particularly Jebel Ali, have taken a toll on their operations.

CMA CGM and MSC have announced port call changes on several Indian services to help schedule recovery, sparking serious concerns for shippers and forwarders.

For example, the French carrier yesterday told Indian customers its North Europe-Mediterranean-Oceania (NEMO) service, which recently added a call at Ennore, would be omitting Tanger Med, due to heavy congestion, transhipping cargo for the Moroccan port via Hamburg and Valencia.

In another blow to Indian cargo flows, its intra-Asia AS9 routing has multiple rotation disruptions in the offing, voiding calls at Port Kelang and Hong Kong on the upcoming voyage of  X-PRESS Capella.

CMA CGM Agencies India told customers: “Shipments already booked for Colombo and Hong Kong will be rolled over to the next AS9 vessel or any other ISC loop.”

Additionally, CMA CGM’s premier Epic service between India and Europe has reported an array of erratic vessel arrivals in India, including the APL Barcelona that has revised ETAs of 4 May at Nhava Sheva and 6 May at Mundra, delays blamed on congestion issues at Jebel Ali.

CMA CGM’s Middle East-India-East Africa connection MIDAS 2 will also skip Nhava Sheva, with the Halsted due to make a single Indian port call at Mundra this week.

MSC’s Indus service from West India to US east coast has also been buffeted by schedule disruptions, with the MSC Agata II voiding India calls. The carrier blamed “severe port congestion and operational constraints”.

According to industry sources, the widespread disruptions have left carriers constantly shuffling gate cut-offs or cargo carting windows for their Indian sailings over the past few weeks, making shipment planning increasingly difficult for exporters and freight forwarders.

“We are facing a major disruption due to the Red Sea crisis,” an Indian liner industry executive said.  “Some delays are only to be anticipated, but container lines are making every effort to serve the trade as best as possible.”

Hans-Henrik Nielsen, global development director at Dubai-based NVO CargoGulf, voiced industry concerns over the deteriorating port flow situation. He said: “Apart from the cost, it also means delays to cargo operations, which cause congestion with trucks, port gates, collection of containers, etc.”

He added that most Asian hub ports were facing an additional one-to-six-day delay, on average, in vessel turnarounds, according to him.

Pushpank Kaushik, CEO of Hyderabad-based NVO and ship agent Jassper Shipping, also noted that strained vessel schedules are impacting trades.

“Longer delivery times may disrupt inventory flows and customer service strategies reliant on timely fulfillment,” Mr Kaushik said.

A significant portion of Indian east coast cargo is traditionally transhipped over Colombo, but the Sri Lankan hub is also dealing with serious capacity issues due to a spike in vessel calls.

The concern comes as Indian trade stakeholders are betting on a rebound of goods exports , after ending fiscal year 2023-24 on a respectable note, despite multiple economic headwinds

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