To overcome the current shortage of shipping containers that threatens to cripple India's trade, the Federation of Indian Exports Organization (FIEO) has set up an online first-level marketplace for containers bringing together both exporters and shipping lines and aimed at easing the flow of outbound goods.
"Exporters can post their container demands online. All such requirements are also made visible to Shipping lines/ Freight forwarders/others so that they can express their interest to fulfil such demands," FIEO has said in a letter sent out to export promotion councils reviewed by Moneycontrol.
While FIEO believes this will better facilitate the understanding of the current container requirement by India's export community in realtime, the portal may also help policymakers in gauging the depth of the crisis.
Exporters can put in requests for containers, notifying the source and destination ports, the specific type of containers needed and the urgency of the order. The portal is expected to help in the ground-level assessment of containers required in the country.
The web-link has gone live from earlier this week and has already seen a deluge of requests by exporters. The highest demands for containers have been placed at Nhava Sheva port in Mumbai and Gujarat's Mundhra port while the most common destination mentioned is Newark port in the United States and destinations across Europe and the Middle East such as Rotterdam port in the Netherlands and Dammam port in Saudi Arabia.
"Rising exports from China has led to the shortage of containers in the region as most of the empty containers are available only for exports from China, as the shipping lines and container companies are being paid hefty premiums for bringing empty containers back to China," FIEO President Sharad Kumar Saraf, said.
The majority of global merchandise trade is dependent on standard size containers carried on mega seaborne vessels run by a relatively small number of shipping lines.
The crisis began in the late part of 2020 as a sharp drop in import volumes compared to led to a shortage of containers available for exports, at ports across India. The situation worsened as economies in the region and beyond began opening up at the same time having ended national and regional lockdowns. As industries opened up, orders for goods poured in and exports began piling up broadly around the same time in all countries, both the demand, and prices for containers skyrocketed.
As a result of the unpredictable supply of containers, freight rates shot up and shipping lines started shutting down, industry insiders said. As a result, micro and small exporters have borne the brunt of the challenge.
The portal also aims to enable the exporting community to negotiate competitive quotes for their requirements.