Containers start piling up at Pakistan ports as transporters’ strike continues

KARACHI: In addition to hurting industrial activity and export shipments, containers have started piling up at the ports, as incoming vessels are continuously offloading the cargo, whereas removal of these consignments stopped completely on Thursday.

“I must say, the strike actually began today (Thursday), as the cargo was still being removed from terminals until Wednesday night,” a transporter Shakoor Alam said. “The contractors have stopped making bookings for upcountry biltys, while vehicles are parked at the stands.” However, transshipment and transit trade consignments are still being dispatched.

Around 9,000 containers were handled at three container terminals including Qasim International Container Terminal (QICT), Karachi International Container Terminal (KICT) and Pakistan International Container Terminals (PICT) every day.

An official at Qasim International Container Terminal (QICT) confirmed that containers were piling up at the terminal, and it would take significant amount of time to clear the terminals even after the strike was called off.

“Until Thursday morning, cargo was being dispatched, but now the local transporters have joined the strike. Of these 9,000 containers, around 8,000 are delivered at various locations in Karachi. Since, this movement has also stopped, boxes have started piling up and there would be severe congestion at ports and terminals.”  He urged the authorities to resolve the issue, so that business activities could continue.

Exporters have lamented that the strike was resulting in scarcity of transport vehicles and containers for the export-oriented industry, which was subsequently affecting shipments all over the country.

“The government seems to be nowhere and we, the exporters, suffer the most whenever the transporters go on strike,” Pakistan Hosiery Manufacturers and Exporters Association (PHMA) Chairman Jawed Bilwani remarked and urged the government to take immediate notice and end the goods transporters’ strike.

According to the latest statistics of the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), Pakistan imported goods worth $23 billion in July-December 2019 while it exported only $11.5 billion worth of goods during the period, a deficit of $11.6 billion.

“Goods of export-oriented industries are ready to be shipped but we find no containers and transport vehicles to move them to ports,” Bilwani said while expressing concern.

“If export shipments are not dispatched timely, exporters will have to resort to air shipments, which cost a great deal more and caused financial loss.”

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