Container shipping companies have repositioned 1.67 million empty twenty foot equivalents (TEUs) in India over the past 18 months to make boxes available for exports to address equipment shortages due to the congestion of global ports and unbalanced economic recovery after Covid, the Ministry of Ports, Navigation and Waterways told Parliament on Friday.
Explaining the reasons for the acute shortage of empty containers that exporters face to ship their cargo, the ministry said port congestion and the “imbalanced economic recovery” between importing and exporting countries, after Covid- 19, played a role in the crisis.
“The crisis started in late 2020 due to a strong mismatch between import and export volumes, resulting in a shortage of (empty) containers available for exports, in ports across India,” said Sarbananda Sonowal, Union Minister for Ports, Maritime Transport and Waterways. the Lok Sabha in a written response.
The situation worsened as economies in the region and beyond began to open up simultaneously after the closures. In April 2021, the container crisis eased somewhat. Still, but in July 2021, the shortage resurfaced as export volumes were higher than ever as the industry began to empty its inventories amid growing global demand.
Regular interaction with shipping companies and their association has increased the availability of the number of Empty Imported Containers (TEUs), Sonowal said.
New maritime transport services have been introduced in West Africa, the United States, Europe and the Far East, thus increasing the supply of containers and the availability of space on ships.
Shipping Corporation of India (SCI) hijacked a 4,500 TEU container ship engaged in coastal trade to import-export trade (EXIM) from October 3.
Container Corporation of India (CONCOR) offers volume-based rebate system of up to 100% on rail fares from September 1 to move empty containers from ports to the hinterland for further use of exports.
Exporters were also urged to explore the possibility of converting their containerized cargo to bulk or bulk cargo.
Shipping companies have said the situation is expected to improve by June 2022, Sonowal added.