Container scarcity, excessive ocean freight hit exporters

Vijay C Roy

Today News Online Service

Chandigarh, May 25

Exporters of Punjab are in a quandary as they are fighting multiple battles. Labour shortage, high steel prices, exponential rise in ocean freight and shortage of containers is hounding them. The waiting period for containers nowadays is 5-10 days as compared to 0-1 day during the pre-Covid times.

This is not the first instance when the exporters are facing shortage of containers. Last year also, they faced a similar situation from September to November. The shortage of containers is affecting exports from Punjab, Himachal and J&K.

Normally, the containers used for imports are deployed for exports as the exporters have to bear additional transportation cost if they transport empty containers from the ports.

“In the past nine months, ocean freight to the US, Europe and Australia has risen by almost 200%, hitting the exporters. The shortage of containers has taken a toll on exports as the shipments are getting delayed. Importing empty containers from ports doesn’t make sense as the transportation cost increases significantly,” said SC Ralhan, president, Ludhiana Hand Tools Association.

“Amid the high ocean freight and container shortage, it’s very difficult to quote rate to buyers as we are facing a tough competition from China,” said an engineering exporter from Jalandhar.

In Punjab, Ludhiana is a major hub of exports. It has five fully functional Inland Container Depots (ICDs) with a capacity to handle over 25,000 TEUs (20-foot equivalent unit) per month and the region-based exporters are dependent on them for exports besides Delhi.

According to customs clearing agents, there is a shortage of containers in Ludhiana because imports have dropped and the exports have started picking up.

Besides this, in the past two months, the price of HR coil — a key raw material for engineering industry — has gone up by Rs 9,000 a tonne, affecting the region’s MSMEs that saw their business recuperating from the losses amid the pandemic.

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