Ports and recyclers clash over Indian demurrage charges

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Indian ports and recyclers are battling over whether demurrage charges should be placed on containers stuck at ports due to the national coronavirus lockdown.

On 31 March, India’s Ministry of Shipping issued guidelines to ports asking them to remove demurrage charges on containers that would need to be held at ports until the lockdown ended on 14 April.

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However, with the lockdown extended until 3 May, ports, shipping lines and recyclers are clashing over whether demurrage charges should continue to be in place.

It is understood that container freight stations (CFS) at ports in India are continuing to charge demurrage for boxes that are being stored at their facilities despite the initial order and a further issuance of guidelines on 21 April by the Ministry of Shipping calling for the fees to be waived.

Material Recycling Association of India president Sanjay Mehta said: “The Ministry of Shipping issued an order dated 21 April and Director General of Shipping on 22 April called for a waiver of all charges by ports and shipping lines and CFSs/ICDs (inland container depots).

“However, many shipping lines, CFSs/ICDs continued to take such charges from importers.”

But in a letter to the chairman of Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, Container Freight Stations Association of India secretary general Umesh Grower wrote: “The CFSs have worked interrupted albeit with limited resources during the entire period of shutdown and cleared 104,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units). If these containers can be evacuated, why not others. The orders from various authorities are proving counterproductive.”

It is understood that some UK containers with recycled materials remain stuck at ports with India effectively shutdown, even if some paper mills and scrap furnaces there have restarted production.

UK exports of recycled materials to India are believed to have ground to a halt due to the lockdown in recent weeks, and exporters to there believe the lockdown will be extended until late-May/early-June at least.

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