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Exporters face container shortage

29 Jan 2022

Hundreds currently stuck and idling at Colombo Port Sri Lankan exporters are facing a container shortage due to the containers used for imports being stuck at the Colombo Port without being cleared, the Ceylon Association of Shipping Agents (CASA) said. Speaking to The Sunday Morning Business, CASA Chairman Shehara de Silva said that despite good export numbers last year, exporters were struggling to find containers to ship their products as 600–800 containers were stuck at the Colombo Port. She said these containers which were used for imports needed to be quickly cleared and put into the market to be used by the exporters. Moreover, she said that there was a global shortage of containers because they take four to five months to turn around when compared to the earlier period of just two months due to similar delays in getting cleared at the respective ports. National lockdowns, shortage of workers, social distancing guidelines, and goods production being stunted saw a global shortage of products since they could not be loaded and shipped via containers in line with usual operations. As a result of these changes, shipping companies began reducing the number of cargo ships which were being sent out, in turn impacting the usual steady flow of imported and exported products, leading to empty containers not being collected. Essential Food Commodities Importers and Traders Association Spokesperson Nihal Senevirathne told The Sunday Morning Business recently that between 1 and 10 January,  about 20,000 MT of imported rice had been stuck at the ports in 800 containers. Rice importers are requesting a waiving off of demurrages to clear these containers. However, according to the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) Act, the Minister of Ports and Shipping has not been provided with powers to waive off demurrages as a whole; only  individual businesses can appeal for a waiving off of demurrages, granted following a hearing by the Demurrage Committee. According to the latest export data available, Sri Lanka recorded the highest monthly exports in November 2021, exceeding the previous high recorded in October 2021, making it the sixth consecutive month of export earnings above $ 1 billion, as per the Central Bank. Earnings from merchandise exports in November 2021 reached an all-time high of $ 1.2 billion, up 54.6% year-on-year (YoY). This surge in merchandise exports was due to increased earnings recorded in industrial (up 56.4% YoY), agricultural (46.9% YoY), and mineral exports (49.0% YoY). Cumulative merchandise export earnings during the first 11 months of 2021 have increased by 24.9% YoY to $ 11.3 billion, compared to the corresponding period in 2020.  (IR)  

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