THE Covid pandemic has sent shockwaves through supply chains, shipping networks and ports. Once the first-wave lockdown was removed from many countries worldwide, there has been a sudden hike in demand for goods, creating chaos on shipping routes which are now highly congested.

Also, many ports had empty containers stuck due to lockdown in some countries. As things stand today, booking a container from China, which is our biggest trading partner, is a nightmare.

The prices, which used to be $700 not long ago, have gone up to $3,000. That in itself is a big issue, but the bigger issue is that space is not available even at that exorbitant rate.

A ship, which used to take on an average 17 days to arrive after booking, now takes two to three months to reach its destination.

It is not only backlogging our imports, especially raw materials, but also affecting our exports. This will in turn not only increase our import price, but our export prices as well.

The Pakistan National Shipping Corporation (PNSC) is our national flag carrier, but has no ship of its own. The current crisis is a reminder to revive our shipping industry by adding ships and to give incentives to the private sector for investment.

If this happens, it will be the only silver lining on this otherwise dark cloud.

S.M. Arif
Karachi

Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2021

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