There has been a widespread strike by truckers in the country, causing severe delays in cargo shipments and a build-up of containers at terminals, disrupting ship loading and unloading

New Delhi: Shipping companies and stakeholders using container terminals in and around the Chennai corridor in southern India are facing severe cargo delays as truck drivers at Indian ports began a strike on July 4.

Local sources said about 4,000 trucks handling cargoes from the local Container Freight station (CFS) at Chennai, Ennore (now renamed Kamarajar) and Kattupalli ports have been stopped since Monday.

The Teamsters association is pushing for a big increase in shipping fees, saying they are justified after rising fuel prices and other costs.

“We have asked for an 80 percent increase in the current rates, but we have not received a positive response.” A truck driver from the National Association of Container Terminals (NACFS), which operates about 35 container terminals in the region, said.

Sources noted that truck drivers are demanding 6,120 rupees ($77) for a 20-foot container and 12,240 rupees ($155) for a 40-foot container.

But sources from container terminal operators say that chennai already charges more for trucks than other ports, especially Nhava Sheva. According to them, the local /CFS shipping cost for a 20-foot container is around Rs 2,500 (us $32) at Navasiva port, while rs 3,400 (US $43) at Chennai port.

A container terminal operator in Chennai port said: “Freight rates cannot be arbitrarily modified on our standards, goods are shipped under shipower-carrier contracts.”

According to industry sources, the strike has led to an increase in import containers and the failure of some exports to be loaded on scheduled ships.

Due to terminal space constraints, export cargo is usually transported to a container terminal outside the terminal before entering the terminal and being loaded onto ships. Similarly, imported goods are delivered by the consignee or his agent to the container terminal for customs clearance.

A shipping company agent in Chennai port said the trucker strike had affected cargo handling of ships berthing at the three ports, noting that the impact would worsen if the strike was not called off soon.

“If stakeholders do not quickly find a solution to the impasse, many time-bound containers could miss their scheduled shipment dates and result in import containers piling up at the docks,” the agent added.

The Container Line Association (CSLA) also expressed concern. Sunil Vaswani, executive director of the association, said: “The movement of containers from the depot to the port, as well as the packing of containers from the factory to the ports of Chennai, Kattupali and Ennore, has been affected. However, negotiations between truckers and stakeholders are ongoing and it is hoped that this matter will be resolved as soon as possible.”

Direct flights to and from southern India are limited, so much of India’s east coast imports and exports have traditionally been transshipped through Colombo port in Sri Lanka or other South Asian hubs. The trucking disruption comes as major shipping companies are increasingly looking for alternatives to Colombo port. Even this transshipment model is facing increasing challenges due to the economic/political crisis facing Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan sources said transhipment cargo was affected.

India’s east coast terminals have had only a few temporary mainline stops in recent weeks due to congestion or delays at Colombo port, and the disruption comes as India steps up efforts to turn some temporary stops into regular services by offering hefty tariff concessions.

There will also be some disruption in Bangladesh, where transport vehicles such as trucks, pickup trucks and delivery vans will be banned from the country’s highways during the seven-day Eid holiday to ease congestion as people head home for the holiday. About 28,000TEU containers are expected to pile up at ports and warehouses between July 7 and 13. Containers will also be stuck at factories, which will remain closed during the holidays. But ships will continue to load and unload.

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