The congestion at cargo terminals in India’s Port of Chennai that has plagued ocean carriers and shippers over the past two months is set to worsen in the coming weeks because of another wildcat strike by truck drivers.
Unionized drivers walked off the job Saturday night to protest the alleged assault of one of their coworkers by a port official.
“All local and hinterland container movements are at a complete standstill with vessel operations seriously affected. Overall, the port is currently in a state of chaos,” a shipping line agent at Chennai said.
Officials said the stoppage created long queues of freight vehicles within and outside the dock area, leading to potential missed shipping connections for outbound cargo and halting import deliveries. As of Tuesday morning, the terminal yard inventory reached nearly 19,000 20-foot equivalent units.
“High yard inventory levels coupled with the sudden truck strike have further compounded congestion problems, adversely affecting the overall terminal efficiency in all respects. Because of this, vessel sailing and berthing schedules will also be affected,” said terminal operator DP World.
The abrupt stoppage came as the port struggles to clear up a huge backlog of cargo built during the previous strikes by harbor truckers.
The problems forced the port-terminal authority to temporarily restrict export carting times to three days from four days. Citing additional operational costs, several carriers including Hapag-Lloyd imposed congestion surcharges, ranging from $50 to $65 per 20-foot container, on all export and import cargo handled at the port
Chennai, India’s second-largest container hub after Nhava Sheva (Jawaharlal Nehru Port), currently has two terminals including the Chennai International Terminals operated by Singapore’s PSA International.
It handled 1.52 million TEUs in fiscal 2011 ended March 31, and 552,000 TEUs from April through July, the first four months of fiscal 2012.