A section of Kerala-based exporters has decided to shift to major ports like Thoothukudi and Nhava Sheva citing unaffordable ocean freight charges, long transit time at Kochi port.

In a setback for Kochi port, a section of Kerala-based exporters has decided to shift to major ports like Thoothukudi and Nhava Sheva in Navi Mumbai citing unaffordable ocean freight charges, long transit time and hostile attitude of central agencies here. The 180-member Kerala Exporters Forum (KEF) claimed a majority of exporters have decided to shift.

The Vegetable and Fruit Exporters Association stopped sending shipments from the port since November 25, claiming that high freight charges and GST had made exports unaffordable.

The volume of exports from Kochi port stood at 1,29,437.05 tonnes in August and 1,04,557.6 tonnes in September. Kerala exports 250 tonnes of fruits and vegetables by air per day and 375 containers of vegetables by sea per month. The freight charge for a 40-feet container from Kochi to Jebel Ali (Dubai) is $1,545, against $533 from Nhava Sheva port. The VKC group, which ships around 125 to 150 containers of footwear a month, has already shifted to Navi Mumbai.

“Though Kochi is convenient for us, buyers demanded that we shift to Navi Mumbai owing to low charge there. There is stiff competition in the market and we have to keep the prices competitive,” said KEF president and VKC group director K M Hameed Ali.

No inordinate delay at Kochi port, says official

Exporters also complained that the delay in transit of cargo from Kochi was causing loss of business.

“A container shipped from Kochi takes 14 days to reach Jebel Ali (Dubai), 18 days to reach Doha port (Qatar) and 22 days to reach Jeddah (Saudi Arabia). The same consignment from Navi Mumbai reaches the GCC countries in five days. Containers from Kochi are first taken to Colombo port where they are transshipped and sent to their destinations. This delays delivery,” said Hameed Ali. Responding to allegations of exorbitant rates, Kerala Steamer Agents Association (KSAA) said freight charges are market-driven and the association has no control over them.

“Freight charge to the US had touched $15,000 during Covid time and has now dropped significantly. The charge to Jebel Ali has come down from $3,200 to $1,545. We often face shortage of containers and they have to be brought from other ports. The transportation charge comes to $600. This is one factor affecting freight charge. We cannot compare Navi Mumbai with Kochi as the volume of service and cargo handling at the former is high,” said KSAA vice-president Varghese K George.

Refuting exporters’ charges, a Cochin Port official said the port has direct cargo shipping service to Dubai and Qatar that operates 10 services a month. “These services reach the destination port in five days. As Mumbai port is closer to West Asia, they have an advantage. However, there is no inordinate delay at Kochi port,” said the official.

Agricultural products sent by ocean freight from Kerala include tapioca, banana, drumstick, ginger, purple yam, yam, coconut and colocasia.

“The high freight charges and GST have made vegetable exports unaffordable. Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh are delivering the same products at cheaper rates which has affected our business,” said All Kerala Exporters Association secretary M Abdurahiman.

Source : maritimegateway