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Shipping lines import 1.67 mn empty boxes to meet equipment shortages : MoPSW

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NEW DELHI : The Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways updated Parliament about container shipping lines repositioned 1.67 million empty twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) into India in the last 18 months to make boxes available for exports to deal with the shortage of equipment driven by global port congestion and the unbalanced economic recovery post-Covid, the ministry of ports, shipping and waterways told Parliament .

Explaining the reasons for the acute shortage of empty containers faced by exporters to ship their cargo, the ministry said that port congestion and the “unbalanced recovery of the economy” between importing and exporting countries, post Covid-19, played a role in the crisis.

The crisis began in late 2020 due to a sharp mismatch in import and export volumes, leading to a shortage of (empty) containers available for exports, at ports across India,” Shri Sarbananda Sonowal, Union Minister of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, updated the Lok Sabha in a written reply.

The situation worsened as economies in the region and beyond began opening up simultaneously after the lockdowns. By April 2021, the container crisis subdued a bit. Still, but by July 2021, the shortage surfaced again when export volumes were more than ever as the industry began clearing inventory amid growth in global demand.

Regular interaction with the shipping lines and their association has increased the availability of the number of empty imported (TEUs) containers, Sonowal said.

New shipping services have been introduced to West Africa, the US, Europe and the Far East, thereby increasing container supply and availability of space on ships.

Shipping Corporation of India (SCI) has diverted a 4,500 TEU-capacity container ship engaged in coastal trade to export-import (EXIM) trade from October 3.

Container Corporation of India (CONCOR) offers a volume-based rebate scheme of up to 100% on rail tariff from September 1 to move empty containers from ports to the hinterland for further export utilisation.

Exporters were also advised to explore the possibility of converting their containerising cargo to bulk/break bulk cargo.

The shipping lines have said that the situation is set to improve by June 2022, Sonowal added.

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