KARACHI: A 10-day wheel-jam strike by goods transporters increased woes of the national economy as it came at a time when the country’s exports were going down persistently.
The strike, which was called off on Wednesday, caused a monetary loss of over Rs250 billion and triggered the return of at least two vessels en route to Pakistan. Exporters also lost several customers in overseas markets.
“Pakistan lost import and export orders worth approximately Rs240 billion due to the strike,” Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) President Shamim Ahmed Firpo said while giving his estimate to The Express Tribune.
Additionally, the Federal Board of Revenue failed to collect customs duty on imports valuing around Rs11 billion.
Firpo said the larger loss to the country was the loss of importers of Pakistani goods abroad.
“Failure to deliver goods to overseas markets usually results in loss of foreign clients, which shift focus to regional competitors [India, China and Vietnam]. In the other case, Pakistani exporters are slapped with heavy penalty by foreign clients,” he said.
Strike makes history
Firpo maintained that the strike had made history as it forced port authorities for the first time to write letters to shipping companies to call back their ships which were on their way to Pakistan due to congestion at Karachi’s seaports.
“This only happens during war,” he said. “As far as I know, at least two ships were turned away. However, such incidents may be higher than reported,” he said.
An official of the Karachi Port Trust (KPT) said some 100,000 containers had been stuck at Karachi Port alone over the last 10 days because of unavailability of transport. He said 15-20 ships left Karachi Port without lifting the cargo as goods could not be shipped to the port from factories nationwide. In addition to these, at least two ships had to wait in queue due to the congestion.
“The port will charge demurrages from the importers of containers that failed to leave the port in the given time,” he said. “The port starts charging demurrages after five days of arrival of containers…Yes, this will definitely cause additional loss to the importers.”
New cargo routes
Sindh Minister for Transport Syed Nasir Shah said his government was committed to resolving the transporters’ issues once and for all so that such strikes could be avoided in the future.
He said his government was going to propose construction of two-way roads on Southern and Northern Bypass in the forthcoming budget.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 18th, 2017.