As the global slowdown takes its toll,the Mediterranean Shipping Company,one of the top firms in the country providing cargo vessel services,has been forced to opt for low-value cargoes and effect layoffs to survive.
Over 35 other shipping companies in the port town are also adopting similar ways to combat the slowdown woes.
Industry sources said the slide in export has been 60 per cent and freight charges have fallen by 75 per cent. While there has been 30 per cent layoff in white collar jobs,the meltdown has not spared anybody associated with the business,including transporters,labourers,booking agents and ship owners.
Restructuring was inevitable. It was the only way
to remain afloat in a sinking economy, said Pranesh Rathod,the companys agent in Gandhidham.
The economic crisis in the US and Europe,the two major export destinations for Gujarat,has drastically brought down the volume of the export business,pulling down freight rates to all time low and resulting into heavy layoffs.
Since September 2008,export volume from ports in Kutch has plummeted by 60 per cent. This has forced shipping agencies to bring down freight rates by almost 75 per cent, said Yogesh Mehta,a professional who provides logistic support to shipping companies.
The freight rates for a standard 40-foot container have come down to 350 dollars from 1,200 dollars. Its difficult to overcome even fuel expenses, said Rathod.
The figures of export business having been done from Mundra port till December 2008 is an evidence of the sorry state of the things the business has got into.
More cargo ships from the port are now sailing with more empty containers and lowly filled containers. For instance,in January last year,in the 72 vessels sailing from the port,there were 64 empty containers of 20 feet and 470 empty containers of 40 feet. While in December,the number has risen to 546 and 1,047 respectively.
On the other hand,the number of loaded containers of 40 feet has gone down from 9,752 in January 2008 to 4,782 in
December 2008. The downfall was most from September onwards when in a single month the number of loaded containers went down from 6,858 to 5,744.
Now,even low-value cargo of rice and cotton is welcome. Earlier,it was all about textile,sea food and handicrafts, said Rathod.
Vessels which used to take longer routes to Antwerp,now take cargoes for Jeddah too. Often vessels from Kutch,meant for Europe,used to sail empty up to Dubai,from where cargo was loaded.
Now,the companies are ready to take low-value cargo even up to Dubai taking pains of loading and unloading at a short distance.
There has been 30 to 35 per cent layoff at each unit, said Mehta. He said nearly 35 port companies,each having a staff of 35 to 40,have their presence in Gandhidham.