Boxed Out

April 19, 2007 (LBO) – Sri Lankan exporters are faced with a shortage of space on container ships for their shipments to Europe after several shipping lines diverted some of their services to India, an official said. The crisis is affecting exports of garments, tea and coir, Jayanath Perera, chairman of the Sri Lanka Shipper’s Council said.

Garments are particularly affected as many exporters have to meet tight deadlines and just-in-time delivery schedules.

Shippers who fail to find space on container ships are forced to air freight their shipments the cost of which can be 75 percent more than sea freight.

Big lines like Maersk, UASC, K-line and Norasia have shifted some of their services to Nava Sheva, in Mumbai, reducing available container slots for cargo from Colombo by 600 TEUs (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units) a week.

The booming Indian export-import trade has prompted shipping lines to start direct services from Indian ports to Europe, obviating the need for transshipment through Colombo.

Perera said inefficiencies at Colombo port, reduced export volumes and poor infrastructure like roads may also have contributed to the lines’

Sri Lanka needs to increase exports and