- Sri Lanka exporters, importers battle high rates, box shortfalls to maintain trade lifeline(27th April 2021)
- Port of Colombo Operation Update(11th January 2021)
- Port of Colombo Operation Update(22nd December 2020)
- Unlawful Surcharge implemented by Consolidators(22nd December 2020)
- Sri Lanka Shippers' Council meeting with the Chairman and Senior Management of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority(15th December 2020)
- Hambantota International Port Group Tariff - 2021(01st December 2020)
- Hambantota International Port Services Tariff - 2021(01st December 2020)
- Port of Colombo: All Operations Return to Normal(30th November 2020)
- Sri Lanka Custom's Trader Re-registration initiative(26th October 2020)
- The 50th Annual General Meeting of the Sri Lanka Shippers' Council(13th August 2020)
- Chairman's Address - Mr. Suren Abeysekera(13th August 2020)
- Payments by Importers/Exporters to Freight Forwarders for Logistics Services(27th April 2020)
- Article by Mr. Suren Abeysekera - Sri Lanka The Future Hub for Logistics(16th October 2019)
- 49th AGM Sri Lanka Shippers' Council 2019-2020(18th August 2019)
- Speech by the Chief Guest Mr. Mangala P. B. Yapa(18th August 2019)
- Speech by the Outgoing Chairman of Sri Lanka Shippers Council - Mr. Chrisso de Mel(18th August 2019)
- Speech by the Incoming Chairman of Sri Lanka Shippers Council - Mr. Suren Abeysekera(18th August 2019)
- EU - Regulations on Packaging Material with effect from 14th of December 2019(21st March 2019)
- 48th AGM Sri Lanka Shippers' Council 2018-2019(24th July 2019)
- Speech by the Chief Guest & the Keynote speaker Hon. Eran Wickramaratne(12th August 2018)
- Speech by Chairman, Mr. Chrisso de Mel at the Post Business Session of 48th Annual General Meeting(10th August 2018)
- Sean Van Dort confirmed as new GSF Chairman(11th May 2018)
- Speech by Outgoing Chairman Mr. Sean Van Dort at the SLSC Post Business Session of 47th Annual General Meeting(04th July 2017)
- Speech by Incoming Chairman, Mr. Chrisso de Mel at the SLSC Post Business Session of 47th Annual General Meeting(04th July 2017)
- Speech by the Chief Guest and keynote speaker Hon. Dr. Harsha de Silva, Deputy Minister, Ministry of National Polices and Economic Affairs(04th July 2017)
- 47th AGM Sri Lanka Shippers' Council 2017-2018(04th July 2017)
- Arjuna no-balls GSP+ benefit with THC move(15th May 2017)
- Competition Policy Issues HK Competition Commission SubmissionHamburg Sud-Maersk Merger(27th April 2017)
- US antitrust regulators raid Box Club meeting(20th March 2017)
- GSF report says radical changes to container shipping market need new solutions(15th November 2016)
- Sri Lanka shippers' Council salutes the Ghana Minister of Maritime Authority for recognizing the plight of its shippers.(30th September 2016)
- Reforms in the Shipping Industry(30th September 2016)
- 46th AGM Sri Lanka Shippers' Council 2016-2017(31st August 2016)
- Global Shippers' Forum Chief hails SL's strong competition laws(02nd August 2016)
- GSF announces plan to stop container surcharges(02nd August 2016)
- New container weighing rules: GSF says unjustified VGM charges are unacceptable(04th July 2016)
- Guidance on the implementation of the SOLAS VI Regulation 2 amendment(29th June 2016)
- Shippers Council ICC Transport Guideline(29th June 2016)
- Shippers Council confers honorary membership on Chullante Jayasuriya(04th May 2016)
- Shippers' Council says 'no' to additional fee under new IMO rules(28th April 2016)
- Media Release - 50th Annivesary of Sri Lanka Shippers' Council(01st April 2016)
- Sri Lanka Shippers' Council to celebrate its 50th Anniversary this year(04th March 2016)
- Shippers' Council Chairman warns importers of attempt to distort freight market once again(04th March 2016)
- The Sri Lanka Shippers council welcomed the single window concept implemented by the Sri Lanka customs(04th March 2016)
- Shippers Council extends best wishes to PM(21st August 2015)
- 45th AGM Sri Lanka Shippers' Council 2015-2016(09th August 2015)
- Shippers' Council expresses concern over Customs Chief's sudden resignation(27th May 2015)
- NCE organises awareness seminar on Sri Lanka's FTAs with India and Pakistan and proposed FTA with China(17th April 2015)
- GSF calls for rigorous monitoring KPI's for shipping alliances(24th March 2015)
- Private sector expresses concern over truck operators' strike at Colombo Port(18th March 2015)
- Sri Lanka Customs - Notice to All Importers/CHAA(09th February 2015)
- Guidelines issued by Sri Lanka Customs about Documentation & Examination Procedure at Export Facilitation Centre (EFC).(29th October 2014)
- Media Releaes: Sri Lanka Shippers' Council hails the Sri Lanka Customs initiative to facilitate exports(16th September 2014)
- Export Facilitation Centre – Container Flow(05th September 2014)
- Sri Lanka Customs Notice - Goods Clearance sms Service(02nd September 2014)
- Sri Lanka Customs - Notice to Exporters e-CDN(02nd September 2014)
- Trade Notice - Guidelines issued by the Director General of Merchant shipping(29th August 2014)
- Sri Lanka Customs Exports Facilitation Centre - Objectives, Process and its Benefits to the trade(15th July 2014)
- Sri Lanka Customs - Notice to Exporters(14th July 2014)
- Sri Lanka Custom's Announcement: Establishment of a Centralized Cargo Processing Facility at Port Access Road(03rd July 2014)
- 44th AGM Sri Lanka Shippers' Council 2014-2015(27th June 2014)
- Trade notice - Issued by Director General Merchant Shipping - Maximum Delivery Order fee(25th April 2014)
- Trade Notice - To be vigilant on exorbitant local charges by some service providers(01st February 2014)
- The Extraordinary Gazette on Terminal Handling and Other Charges(06th January 2014)
- Sri Lanka Shippers' Council welcomes the Budget Proposals on Shipping(02nd December 2013)
- Customs Notice Penalty Tables for late reporting and amendments to cargo manifest(26th November 2013)
- Trade Notice - A list of licensed FFs with DGMS as at 08/11/2013(09th November 2013)
- P3 Network Takes Shape [Infographic](30th October 2013)
- Trade Notice Sri Lanka Customs - New Gazette No 1829/39 of 27/09/2013(18th October 2013)
- Notice issued by Director General Merchant Shipping for non licensed Freight Forwarders and NVOCC Operators(26th Saptember 2013)
- IMO passes mandatory container weighing – but with a compromise for shippers(26th Saptember 2013)
- Shipper anger grows as more airlines weigh in with costly surcharge change(26th Saptember 2013)
- The Minister of Finance has issued regulations and Colombo and Hambantota ports have been declared as Free Ports(16th August 2013)
- Sri Lanka Shippers' Council Meeting with Sri Lanka Customs(26th July 2013)
- Changes to the Export Cargo Clearance Procedure(04th July 2013)
- Container lines band up to beat the blues(21st June 2013)
- 43rd Annual General Meeting 2013-2014 – Sri Lanka Shippers' Council(14th June 2013)
- Awareness Seminar on Avoiding risks on ad-hoc charges in international trade contracts(30th April 2013)
- Full Implimentation Of Sri Lanka Custom'S Asycuda World System(06th March 2013)
- New 20ft box design promises greater capacity for shippers(20th February 2013)
- Shipping lines cut capacity and up rates as Asia-Europe stays weak(18th February 2013)
- Sri Lanka Shippers' Council visits Mattala Airport and Magampura Port(09th February 2013)
- Container Ship Capacity Around the World Is Up 6 Percent(14th January 2013)
- Full time AW help desk to solve urgent operational issues is now in place at Sri Lanka customs(20th December 2012)
- Trade Circular 21:IMPORTANT TRADE NOTICE for all methyl bromide users(24th September 2012)
- SLSC Circular to the membership / Importers & Exporters(17th September 2012)
- Open Discussion - Issues related to SLPA's newly implemented Cargo Management Module(22nd August 2012)
- Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) Circular: Implementation of the Cargo Management Module for Imports(08th August 2012)
- 42nd AGM Sri Lanka Shippers' Council 2012-2013(27th July 2012)
- Progress review discussion on Asycuda World (AW) Implementation(19th June 2012)
- Awareness Seminar on Regularizing Methyl Bromide Fumigation Procedure and Usage (01st June 2012)
- SLSC conducted Inspection tour to SLPA Warehouses (23rd & 25th May 2012)
- Online Submission of CUSDECs with blend sheets (17th May 2012)
- Sri Lanka Ports Authority Notice to all Exporters/Shippers/Forwarding Agencies (18th April 2012)
- Seminar on current status of Simplified VAT scheme (29th March 2012)
- Monitoring Procedure for fumigation using Me Br Incompliance with Montreal Protocol (26th March 2012)
- Advance Facilities to the Shipping Industry from SL Ports Authority,an awareness seminar organized by Sri Lanka Shippers Council (26th January 2012)
Sri Lanka exporters, importers battle high rates, box shortfalls to maintain trade lifeline
27th April 2021
Sri Lanka's exporters and importers are working against multiple global and domestic logistics disruptions in the post-Covid-19 period to keep exports ticking and supply the country with essential foods and raw material as freight rates soar.
Exporters are also facing shortfalls of containers with import controls in Sri Lanka, compounding global bottlenecks in shuttling empty containers.
Though freight rates have started to stabilize gradually from Covid-19 peaks, Sri Lankan shippers are paying high rates and battling capacity bottlenecks.
Freight rates from Colombo to Europe, China and Hong Kong have jumped over 200 per cent, to the US over 150 per cent and to Singapore over 100 per cent, Sri Lanka's Shipper Council Chairman Suren Abeysekera said.
Freight rates were competitive before the Covid-19 pandemic, helped by large container ships coming into service, but pandemic disruptions rapidly pushed up rates as ships were taken off service reducing capacity.
The Shanghai Freight Index has jumped three-fold compared to 2019 last quarter while the Drewry's World Container Freight Index also shows a threefold jump from 2019 with the average spot freight rate jumping from 1500 dollars in March 2019 to 4800 dollar by March 2021, Abeysekera said.
"In my 21-plus year experience I have never seen something like this before," Abeysekera said calling it a 'perfect storm' in ocean freight.
The resurgence of economic activities after Covid lockdowns ended, and the rush to build up stocks had created congestion in the global logistics system.
Shipping companies were making large profits and orders have also been placed at shipbuilders.
"Whatever that stopped during COVID, couldn't come back to its former glory even though the industry came back quickly to match the consumer demand," Abeysekera explained.
Across the logistics chain, there are delays and congestion, which is a cost to shippers.
"Congestions created at ports amplify this issue with ships spending more time close to ports rather than moving cargo on water," Abeysekera said.
While global trade has not actually grown, it is the disruptions and delays that are causing capacity problems, he said.
"Remember the number of ships in the world has not suddenly increased but most are out of schedule creating havoc to demand when it needs supply."
"It is our understanding that the current volatility in the ocean freight market would continue throughout 2021 and shippers in the country should adapt to the new norm in containerized shipping," he said.
The industry has taken a number of initiatives to mitigate the situation; more innovations are being underway, but there are also measures that authorities can take, he said.
Overall ships are fuller than before, reducing the ability of shuttles to be emptied.
Globally there were difficulties in getting hold of empty containers and also specific types such as food-grade boxes, refrigerated containers and different sizes such as 40-foot containers and 20-foot containers.
Vessels delaying their return to Asia due to congestion in export destinations had also contributed to a shortfall of containers in Asia. Others have also got stuck in inland ports.
There is at least one investigation by regulators to probe whether an artificial shortage is created, he said.
In Sri Lanka exporters are facing difficulties getting empty containers in general and specific types of containers.
Sri Lanka's import controls had created shortfalls of empty containers, whereas, in the past, there was an excess of boxes on the island.
"Specifically for Sri Lanka, the reduction of imports has had a direct impact on container availability," Abeysekera said.
"Generally, Sri Lanka has an imbalance in the number of containers with more inflow than outflow. But currently, it is reversed."
Due to import imbalance, the 20' equivalent size containers have a better availability compared to 40' and 45' containers in Sri Lanka.
But the overall export cost of two 20 foot containers instead of a 40 foot container was not the same.
Shippers are taking several measures on their own to mitigate the fallout and maintain the external trade lifelines of the country.
Forecasting volumes to shipping lines and maintaining accuracy is one way to make sure shipments can be made on time.
"Currently, the earlier you could forecast the lines, the better chance for exporters/ importers to obtain space on vessels," Abeysekera said.
"Presently, forecasting is done as early as and when found weeks ahead by some users. This helps with rates as well."
The creation of a common container pool without having to look for containers in specific yards would also help, he said.
It is not clear whether an online data-base could be set up for container freight stations to update data daily.
State authorities could also take measures that would help combat the problem.
Sri Lanka has lost a number of ocean services during the congestion that happened during a Covid-19 spike at Colombo Port last year.
Though many lines have returned some are still bypassing Colombo.
"Sri Lanka should market its Colombo port internationally as a port which successfully combats Covid and attract vessels back to its shores which will increase capacity for local importers and exporters," Abeysekera said.
Attracting new lines to Colombo would also help.
Sri Lanka can also invite shipping lines to use Colombo as their hub in Asia, he said.
Additional ships calling in Colombo will give more business to shipping agents and other service providers including husbandry and ship services.
Sri Lanka however has placed controls on foreign ownership of shipping agencies, which some say has prevented the island from following on the path of Singapore where regional offices are set up.
Fast-tracking clearances by border agencies would also help, he said.
Sri Lanka can also relook at import controls, he said. Ad hoc changes are creating ripples and uncertainties in the market.
While the cost of shipping had hit record levels, shippers have to put up with very high service charges from middlemen such as freight forwarders, consolidators.
He says such gauging is unethical given the current context.
What shippers are doing and what Shippers' Council says can be done to further mitigate the crisis
1. A quick solution to the problem we see from the shippers' side, is properly forecasting volumes to shipping lines and maintaining the accuracy of these projections. Currently, the earlier you could forecast the lines, the better chance for exporters/ importers to obtain space on vessels. Presently forecasting is done as early as 4 weeks ahead by some users. This helps with rates as well.
2. Another opportunity available for shippers is getting into strategic contracts with SSLs with volume/rate commitments from both sides. Current spot rate markets are bullish and most of the time-space not awarded or containers rolled at transhipment points due to yield restrictions.
3. Shipping lines are also encouraging renewing of annual contracts prematurely giving the opportunity to secure rates and capacity at current levels in case the situation develops further and also to have confirmed space in the current context.
4. Importers and exporters should relook at their entire supply chain/ value chain activities and not in EXIM trade in isolation to attract transportation cost benefits in this challenging period
5. Another new option has emerged from shipping lines deploying smaller vessels to ply between specific port pairs which help to speed up transit between key economies and cut down congestion having to carry, load/ unload and experience congestion calling many ports on the way. This is at a premium rate but provides consistency and dependability to freight transportation thus relieve pressure on main ocean line hauls.
6. Availability of a common container pool in Sri Lanka without having to look for containers in specific yards would also help to quickly track and issue containers to exporters from a central repository.
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