With the world’s second largest populous country announcing the world’s biggest lockdown for 21-days until April 14 to contain the spread of coronavirus, supply chain disruptions are likely to wreak far greater havoc on the country’s economy.
Warehouses are deserted, and while there is permission to move export-import cargo, truckers are being careful, due to the uncertainty, said industry officials. According to the head of a local trucking association, some 60% of truck drivers serving Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) in Mumbai, India’s busiest container hub, have “fled to the villages” in fear of the outbreak.
Bharat Mumbai Container Terminals (BMCT) which runs the fourth container terminal at JNPT said many users are facing difficulty arranging pick-ups, due to the shortage of manpower and resources. BMCT said they would be extending the free storage period of all import containers.
Maersk has already told customers to expect import delays at JNPT and Chennai. “Some ports may have challenges managing the windows as for vessels coming from China, a 14-day quarantine is a must now (including transit), we have two services which will get impacted PKX and FI2 sailings,” a Maersk advisory on port operations/vessel schedules in its website said.
Maharashtra, which is home to the country’s financial centre of Mumbai, has recorded the highest number of confirmed cases in India.
“Yesterday we sealed the state borders and today we are sealing district borders. We will not allow it to spread to the districts which are unaffected as of now,” CM Uddhav Thackeray said.
This had led to confusion over transport restrictions and exemptions for commercial trucking impacting the movement of fresh produce across India’s state borders. A similar confusion have rised in the e-commerce sector, with Amazon and Flipkart forced to suspend pick-ups and deliveries due to local authorities closing warehouses, despite the apparent exemption of warehouses from the lockdown measures.
Blue Dart’s customers are closing their production facilities and warehouses. “In view of the developing situation, we have decided only critical pharmaceutical/medical equipment already in our custody and our network will be prioritised for delivery,” said MD of Blue Dart Express, Balfour Manuel.
From midnight of March 24, India is grounding all domestic flights in a bid to contain the virus, having already barred international arrivals.
This has left limited cargo capacity on freighters, said Deputy Managing Director of Kintetsu World Express (KWE) India Karthi Baskar.
“Pricing has reached a peak. Pharma products are now moving with rates ranging from $6 per kg to Europe and $10 per kg to US. Tough times ahead, but still charter opportunities are available,” Baskar informed the media.
Amidst all this, KWE is expecting a major slowdown throughout April and June.