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Exclusive | As shipping schedules get affected, exporters choose to wait and watch the Suez canal drama

The Suez Canal is the primary route for ships moving between India and Europe and the traffic hold-up has begun to affect the tight schedules of commercial shipping lines operating in India. But exporters remain hopeful that a backlog of up to 7-10 days can be overcome with some planning and speedy clearance by the Customs authorities.

March 26, 2021 / 04:29 PM IST
Source: AFP

Source: AFP

Commercial shipping schedules have gone haywire due to a large container ship, the MV Ever Given, getting stuck on the Suez Canal, one of the busiest maritime superhighways in the world, amid high winds during a dust storm. But Indian merchandise exporters, as well as importing companies, are keeping their fingers crossed, hoping that a 7-10 day backlog will be overcome.

"As per the present information we have, it may take 3-4 days minimum to resolve the situation. With the logjam already ongoing for three days and 50-plus ships (normally) crossing through the canal every day, it has already started affecting shipping schedules," A.V. Vijaykumar, Chairman of the Federation of Freight Forwarders’ Associations in India (FFFAI), said.

Currently, ships take an average of 17-18 days to travel between ports on India's west coast and Western European ports such as Rotterdam. But the journey's duration also depends on transshipment, whereby ships make multiple stops along the way. Egypt's Port Said, at the northern end of the Suez canal, is an important stopover and freight forwarders say that the waiting line of ships is getting longer there, and may further extend the delay.

On the other hand, customs agents say the goods clearance time at major ports such as JNPT in Mumbai will increase after the current challenge ends as authorities will face a sudden rush of traffic. As a result, from next week onwards, specific industries may start seeing their supply chains get affected.