Containers from Chennai port boxed in over e-pass confusion

On an average, 2,200 containers move in and out of three ports — Chennai, Kamarajar and Katupally — that feed Chennai on a normal day.

However, since the intensive lockdown was re-imposed in Chennai and its neighbouring districts on June 19, only some containers are transiting the ports. And even those are stranded in various check-posts within the city.

This has hit the operations of the manufacturing hubs surrounding the city. Supply chains of the auto majors located in Sriperumbudur and Oragadam face disruption with containers not reaching them. Other manufacturers too are facing similar challenges. Their exports too are hit as most containers headed for the ports are stuck outside the city.

The reason for this is the non-issuance of e-passes by the Tamil Nadu government to the trailers and support staff involved in logistics service during the current 12-day lockdown. The passes issued during the earlier lockdown are now deemed invalid and the police authorities are insisting on new ones, said logistics players.
Movement paralysed

Processing of Customs and port-related documentation — that need to accompany the vehicles — has been hampered as no pass is issued to support staff like the Customs House Agents (CHA). Industry associations have sought intervention of the Finance Minister and Chairman of Chennai Port Trust (ChPT) and Principal Chief Commissioner of Customs, Chennai, to sort out the issue. “Movement of containers to districts from Chennai and vice versa is paralysed,” said G Raghu Shankar of International Clearing and Shipping Agency.

The ambiguity over issue of e-passes is creating confusion to service providers like Customs brokers, shipping lines, CFS operators, transporters, ports and terminals, and to the industry.

“Most of the requests for passes have been rejected,” said Shankar, who is also chairman of SICCI’S Shipping Committee.

None of the stakeholders has received the e-pass for the current lockdown for which the applications were made from June 18. “Most of our vehicles with laden containers are being stopped at various police check posts and officials are demanding for fresh e-passes”, said the Trailer Owners Association.
No mention of service providers

While sea ports, airports, train operations, CFS, CHAs and shipping lines, have been included in the e-pass category, there is no mention of logistics service providers.

“How will the shipping trade operate trailers without involvement of the staff involved in documentation?” asked the association.

A senior official of the ChPT said only a few passes are being issued. The logistics community should be considered separately since ports are working 24/7. “Chennai police or corporation should do something. Or else, all operations will slow down and eventually stop,” said CR Raghavendra, Senior General Manager, K Steamship Agencies (P) Ltd.

The Chennai Custom Broker Association, in a letter to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, said despite the Customs department’s efforts, e-passes are not being issued.

Export containers cannot move without completing the Customs clearance procedures for which the presence of employees in offices is essential.

The State government has been urged to issue a minimum of three e-passes to each company, said the association’s president S Nataraja.
Source: The Hindu Business Line

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