Containers pile up at port as export orders cancelled

Updated April 05, 2020

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Data compiled by Pakistan Customs shows that the total export containers shipped between March 22 till April 3 was 12,690 containers whereas the total export containers that reached the port is 19,625, leaving a stock of 6,935 containers at the port. — Reuters/File
Data compiled by Pakistan Customs shows that the total export containers shipped between March 22 till April 3 was 12,690 containers whereas the total export containers that reached the port is 19,625, leaving a stock of 6,935 containers at the port. — Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: Export containers are piling up at Karachi ports since March 22 owing to non-availability of shipping lines and order deferments from buyers.

The Karachi Port, which handled 76 per cent of total export cargo, has seen a decline of 31pc in shipments of export containers between March 22 to April 3. The broader reasons of decline are listed as cancellation of orders from buyers and diminished availability of ships.

Data compiled by Pakistan Customs shows that the total export containers shipped between March 22 till April 3 was 12,690 containers whereas the total export containers that reached the port is 19,625, leaving a stock of 6,935 containers at the port.

At the same time, according to customs data, the reaching of export containers to port since March 15 was also 50pc less than last year. The port received 38,640 export cargo during this period last year as against 19,625 containers this year.

“This clearly shows that exporters have already withheld their consignment after receiving cancellation or deferment messages from buyers”, a senior customs official told Dawn, adding both statistics decline in arrival of containers at port and shipment show slowdown in the country.

Exports from eastern border are almost zero as Pakistan has already suspended exports to Indian at Wagha border.

In the wake of coronavirus outbreak, the western borders—Chaman and Torkham were also closed for export to Afghanistan and onward Central Asian States. Similarly, Taftan border stations with Iran were also closed for trade with Iran.

According to customs data, only 15pc export cargo through air is going from the country. “Air freight units export are badly effected due to air space closure and only few freighters are going from Pakistan”, said a customs official.

Adviser to Prime Minister Razak Dawood told Dawn that he did not have real time data regarding actual cancellation of orders from Europe and United States. He also admitted that exporters are not willing to share the data with the government or their respective associations.

He said the associations are just coming up with percentage figures which could not be quantified and verified easily. The advisor said that the only data available with the government for assessment of impact is the reaching of containers at ports and shipment from the port.

The adviser said that customs data show that shipment from March 2020 is signaling cancellation of orders from the country.

Razak said that government is analysing for effective use of government package in terms of timely giving wages to workers and will not transfer the amount to other sectors. “We will see that the subsidy amount will be used in the export sector”, he said, adding no amount will be diverted to construction or real estate sectors.

The coronavirus outbreak also led to closure of transit cargo via Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, April 5th, 2020