Indian Customs, bowing to intense pressure from the local trade community, agreed to facilitate the diversion of export cargo stranded at the Port of Jawaharlal Nehru (Nhava Sheva) to the neighboring ports of Mundra and Pipavav.
"It has been decided to temporarily allow the movement of customs-cleared export containers lying in the port premises and container freight stations by rail to Mundra and Pipavav for export therefrom. This special arrangement shall remain in force until the functioning of the Jawaharlal Nehru Port returns to normal," Customs said.
The move is expected to help decongest Nehru, the country's largest container gateway, where operations came to a virtual standstill following the recent collision of two cargo ships at the main harbor, forcing shipping lines to skip calls and reroute ships to ports farther up the west coast as well as to leading transshipment hubs in the region.
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State-owned Container Corporation of India earlier announced the launch of intermodal rail services between Nehru, Mundra and Pipavav, subject to mandatory approvals from Customs officials. The clearance followed vigorous efforts by the Mumbai-Nhava Sheva Ship Agents' Association, which has been spearheading the cause of port users.
The association also requested port and terminal authorities allow waiver on additional vessel-related and container-related charges for the traffic affected by the five-day shutdown at Nehru and Mumbai.
Meanwhile, according to local shipping circles, it could be some days before normal operations are restored at the two busiest gateway ports. "Vessels are still being allowed to move in and out in a convoy during daylight hours only and with draft restrictions. No night navigation is permitted," a shipping line agent said.