The fluid situation in Colombo port, where the cargo operation was fully suspended on Tuesday in view of the tense situation in the island, has forced shippers from the south, especially Kerala, to seek alternative routes to cater to the needs of EXIM (export-import) community here.
Kerala Exporters’ Forum has urged all the members of the EXIM community to route their Jebel Ali and West Asia cargo either through Cochin port -Jawaharlal Nehru Port, Mumbai or Cochin Port- Mundra Port or Chennai-Dubai.
Those meant to Far East should be routed through either Tuticorin or Chennai ports, it said. The forum requested Kerala Maritime Board and Port Minister to operate feeder vessel services having a depth of 10 plus metres from Kollam port. The board was also urged to arrange Electronic Data Exchange (EDI) facilities and ICP (Immigration Check Points) for crew movements in Kollam port as an immediate measure.
Munshid Ali, secretary of the forum, said though the suspended operations were restored by Wednesday evening, there was a risk in routing the cargo through the Colombo port in the current political and economic situation in Colombo.
The Ceylon Association of Shipping Agents in a letter to Sri Lanka Ports Authority chairman pointed out on Tuesday that vessels that have completed operations were idling inside the Colombo port without being able to sail out. The consequence of delayed departure results in a huge financial loss for the shipping lines, loss of schedule integrity, delayed delivery of cargo and missing berthing opportunities in other ports among other things.
Sources in the Cochin port said that a mother vessel from Australia to Colombo had now been diverted to Cochin port following the strike in Colombo and it would call it Cochin port in a couple of days. Cochin port has an installed capacity to handle one million cargo twenty-foot equivalent units per year, whereas around three million twenty-foot equivalent units have been routed through the Colombo port by Indian EXIM traders every year.
N.S. Pillai, chairman of the Kerala Maritime Board, said the board would submit a proposal to the Ministry of Home Affairs to start immigration services at Kollam port in a couple of days. “We have already set up six immigration check points at the port and once the permission is granted, the port can offer feeder vessel services to other main ports along with facilitating crew exchange here,” said Mr. Pillai.
Agents like me at Kollam port waiting for immigration facility at port since years