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Task Force on container shortage & freight rates meets to review progress.

The Task Force to monitor the shortage of containers and increase in freight rates met recently, chaired by the Additional Secretary to the Government of India, Ministry of Ports, Shipping & Waterways.

The Additional Secretary highlighted the measures taken by the Ministry and others as under:

* Major Ports are encouraging shipping lines to arrange direct calls of mother vessels for transshipment services
* Fiscal incentives have been provided by port authorities i.e. volume-linked discounts on port charges, increasing free storage periods, and concessional storage charges
* Through regular interaction with all the stakeholders by Port Chairmen, container shortages at JNPT, Mundra and ICDs considerably reduced
* Quarantine restrictions on vessels arriving from Covid-affected countries have been removed
* Import of empty containers increased; so far more than 1.67 million TEUs have been re-positioned by shipping lines


The Deputy Secretary of, Commerce Ministry informed that Transport and Marketing Assistance (TMA) has been notified and inputs have been given to extend it to multiple products.
A freight rebate of 50% for imported empties from port to ICDs has been offered by CONCOR. It also announced a rebate of 75% for movement of 10,000 TEUs per month and further is not going to charge anything if the volume is 15,000 TEUs per month to promote EXIM business.
CBIC issued a Circular in September for expeditiously disposing of the unclaimed/uncleared/seized/confiscated goods including those holding up containers.
On extending the duty-free timeline for containers, it issued Circular 21 of 2021 authorizing Assistant Commissioner to extend the duty-free timelines by three months with condition that they will be exported in laden condition.
The online portal has been developed by FIEO for exporters to project the demand for containers. It was informed that more people have been onboarded on the portal and the number of exporters, shipping lines, and freight forwarders has increased on the site. Hundreds of container demands and queries have been posted.

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3. The issues related to the augmentation of container availability for EXIM trade were discussed as under:

* Duty-free period for keeping the container in India be increased from 6 months to 1 year
* Release of abandoned, detained/seized containers by Customs
* Conversion of containerized cargo to bulk and break-bulk wherever possible
* Measures by Dept of Commerce and Ministry of Railways to improve container availability for EXIM trade
* Reducing the Turnaround Time of containers to a bare minimum; the action points were integration with CFSs & ICDs for tracking the container inventory on daily basis, integration of empty yards and maintenance yards to monitor the movement of empty containers, integration with CFSs & ICDs of CONCOR, it was pointed out
* Promotion of procurement and domestic production of containers. CONCOR informed that a tender has been opened for the procurement of 6,000 containers. Further, it has got approval to procure 1,000 containers each from two PSUs i.e. BHEL & Braithwaite
* It was also stated that some shipping lines have announced additional tonnage from India

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