April 10, 2020 12:11:33 am
The nationwide lockdown due to COVID-19 pandemic has created a capacity crunch at the country’s largest cargo terminal at Mumbai International Airport. It currently is being forced to accommodate imported cargo fifty per cent more than its carrying capacity, as importers have not picked up their goods since March 23, sources told The Indian Express.
The airport — which has India’s largest cold chain storage and a capacity to store about 3,000 metric tonnes of imported goods — is currently accommodating 4,500 metric tonnes of goods, some of which are even lying out in the open next to the aircraft due to space crunch. “The sheds at Sahar Aircargo complex are overflowing,” said an official.
The situation prompted Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL) to issue a circular on Tuesday, urging importers and customs brokers to swiftly approach the air cargo complex with documents and collect the cargo immediately after the arrival of the cargo flight . Earlier, importers were allowed to start the collection process only after they received a location number of their shipment after its arrival.
“Due to less clearance and huge storage of import cargo, it will not be possible to assign location to all landed shipments, hence please don’t wait for locations/binning updation in the system, kindly process for the delivery at the earliest,” said the MIAL circular. The imported goods that are lying unclaimed include essential pharma and agriculture cargo and non-essential automobile, engineering and electronic goods among others, said sources.
Both the airport authorities and customs officials said the imported goods have completely clogged the air cargo complex. The problem is compounding as on an average, 4-5 frieghters have been operating at the airport with average daily imports of 250 tonnes.
“The customs is functioning 24/7 and engaging with stakeholders proactively to clear the consignments at the earliest. But it is proving to be a difficult task. While customs officers are able to reach the place of work with relative ease, the same is not true of other stakeholders, particularly the contract labour, some of whom may have been migrant and left the city,” said Vijay Singh Chauhan, commissioner of customs, Air Cargo Complex.
While the Centre has waived 50 per cent of demurrage charge on exim consignments and the customs is allowing importers to shift cargo to warehouses without paying duties, importers are not keen on moving the goods from the airport. They have cited various reasons including lack of workers, transport and low demand, for delay in collection of imported goods, said sources.
“Perhaps the biggest challenge relates to refrigerated cargo, with only limited storage space and high possibility of spoilage. Most of the imports relate to pharmaceutical companies. Customs is trying to reach out to the importers, offering them all assistance, is taking delivery of the imported materials and even in warehousing,” said Chauhan.
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