”Shipments stuck at CFS for 10-15days due to lockdown, operators charging levies”

Shortage of labour and equipment operators amid the nationwide lockdown is resulting in shipments not getting unloaded for up to 10-15 days of arrival of the container at the container freight station, a logistics industry official has said.

At the same time, container freight station operators allegedly refuse to pay heed to the directives from the Directorate General of Shipping (DGS) not to charge the storage charges from the consignees during the lockdown days, the official said.

“The cargo movement came to a standstill during lockdown 1.0. It gradually started under lockdown 2.0 and 3.0. However, migration of labour and drivers from cities to their hometowns has created labour shortages at port, airports, CFSs and Inland Container Depots (ICDS),” Lancy Barboza, Managing director, Flomic Global Logistics told PTI.

“Truck drivers have also moved back to their home towns in large numbers and now there is a huge shortage of trucks and trailers which has severely impacted movement of domestic and international cargo,” he said.

The ports and CFS were open during the lockdown however, the clearance of cargo was severely affected due to the fear of coronavirus infection and shortage of labourers, he said.

“This labour crunch coupled with shortage of equipment operators has led to LCL (Less Than Container load) containers not getting de-stuffed for 10-15 days of their arrival at the CFS and the consignees are being charged for these extra storage days,” Barboza said.

The DG Shipping in its April 22 order had decided that for the second lockdown period, the shipping companies or carriers will not charge any levy or recover any penal charges, demurrage, ground rent, storage charges in the port on cargo owners/consignees of non-containerised cargo whether LCL or not for the period from April 15 to May 3 due to delay in berthing, loading/unloading operations or evacuation/arrival of cargo.

Prior to this, on March 29 also, it had issued an advisory on non-charging of container detention charges on import and export shipments for the period from March 22 to April 14.

“However, the CFS operators refuse to pay heed to the well-intentioned directive of DG shipping not to charge the storage charges during the lockdown days and the consignees are suffering due to this,” he said.

Barboza lamented that the logistics industry has hardly got anything in the recently announced stimulus package.

“We find that the share of benefits to the logistics industry is this package is very little. From what we have understood, only the logistics companies who come under the new definition of MSME will be able to get additional loan funding from Banks for a three year period.

“Also there is a reduction in Provident Fund which is applicable to all industries. Other than this there is hardly any benefit or support to logistics operators,” he said.

Besides, there is no clarity on how much of additional loans can be availed and how quickly it will be disbursed to the MSME logistics companies, he added.

The package announced by the Union Finance Minister last Friday includes 11 measures to improve farm infrastructure and logistics and reform the agriculture sector.

“In India, the logistics industry is still largely manpower-oriented due to low level of automation in CFSs and warehouses and prevalence of manual approval processes, instead of electronic data interchange EDI).

“Paying wages and salaries to the workforce is a huge burden on the logistics operators.  The Industry was expecting a subsidy grant or an interest-free loan for three months of wage bill. This would have set to rest the anxieties of employers and employees in the logistics industry,” Barboza said.

As against this, in other parts of the world such as Italy, Spain, France and UK,  the governments have taken care of the 60 per cent of the employee”s salary which means they don”t have to worry about the day-to-day expenses, he said.

“Therefore, the entrepreneurs in these countries don”t have to worry about the payment of employees” salaries unlike in India where we have to worry about this issue also,” he added.