Are Indian ports on the verge of a shutdown due to surge in Covid cases?

The devastating wave of the Covid pandemic have bought many Indian ports on the verge of shutting down, including some major ports handling shipments from China. As ports cut down on operations drastically, many fear the suspension of operations will lead to delay in shipment of emergency medical equipments and cargo.

In light of the pandemic, Chennai port has decided to cut down on its staff and facility operation from May 10 till May 16, reduce working hours to 11 am – 6 pm every day, and ask other staff to work remotely. The reduction in port staff is likely to extend customs processing time from about four days to as long as two weeks.

Karaikal Port in southern India invoked force majeure until May 24 after operations were “severely affected” from the pandemic, according to a notice on its website. The terminal, which claims to be India’s biggest non-state port, handles coal, sugar and petroleum among other commodities.

Similarly, Kandla port, the nearest port to capital New Delhi and the largest port in India by cargo throughput also suspended its operations from April 24 due to “a sudden massive resurgence in COVID-19 cases and is yet to announce the reopening.

Cargo movement at Visakhapatnam Port, one of India’s major marine terminals, is also partly affected after the local traders’ body announced force majeure in the port area until May 19.

The suspension of some ports has led to crowding of other ports due to which medical equipment’s along with telecom devices and clothing, are stranded. The stay-at-home orders are constraining the movement of people and materials to and from the country’s ports, even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government resists a nationwide lockdown.

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