Sea freight challenges in India and Sri Lanka



Leading container shipping line MSC is reducing Indian ports of call, in order to sustain a weekly sailing frequency on major commercial routes.

As the shipping line struggles to sustain a weekly sailing frequency on major commercial routes, Mediterranean Shipping Co (MSC) is reducing Indian ports of call, with services between India the United States and Europe frequently sailing directly into Mundra Port and skipping the first JNPT/Nhava Sheva port call. 

Nhava Sheva is roughly 300 nautical miles from Mundra, where the carrier has ‘own terminal advantages’, which allow it to turn its vessels around faster.  (The largest container handler in Mundra, the Adani International Container Terminal, is a strategic investment collaboration between port owner Adani Group and MSC.)

After the MSC Altair skipped Nhava Sheva in Week 11, MSC has issued a new advisory announcing another Nhava Sheva omission on the same service.

In view of severe delays faced at previous ports of call and to maintain schedule integrity, MSC Rosa M, voyage IV211A, will skip the Nhava Sheva call and proceed to Mundra, the carrier said in its notice.

With heightened service reliability challenges, the concentration of Indian calls in Mundra, instead of multiple port calls, is becoming an industry strategy to maximise cargo volumes.

That consolidation has seen many sailings on MSC’s premier routings under its US East Coast and Europe networks skipping Nhava Sheva/Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) in recent weeks.

MSC’s ‘own-terminal advantage’ in Mundra enables quicker vessel turnarounds and tariff benefits, which are critical factors in the current flawed scenario.

On a normal schedule, the INDUSA rotates Mundra, Nhava Sheva, Colombo, Valencia, New York, Savannah, Norfolk and Mundra.

MSC’s India-Europe connections have also missed or are due to miss Nhava Sheva calls, while IPAK’s third Indian port call at Hazira has also been disrupted.

With schedule disruptions set to persist, Indian exporters have a harder time shipping goods out of the country, even though empty container availability has expanded substantially, with empty imports via Nhava Sheva up 20% (Dec to Feb) and 78,000 teu of empties landing in Chennai between April 2021 and February 2022.

Growing transhipment delays at Colombo Port in Sri Lanka, as a consequence of the economic and political crisis and capacity strains from new COVID lockdowns in China, add even more pressure to market conditions for Indian shippers.

Increasingly, shipments that would typically take a two to four-week window from booking to sailing are now taking up to six to eight weeks, across all lanes into Europe and The USA – and then there is the potential dwell time on arrival at congested destination ports to also contend with and consider within the logistics equation.

We have also been cautioned by our local partners about truck shortages increasing in Colombo for inter-terminal transfer operations, with the potential to cause delays to loading vessels, and with inventory levels increasing, if the delay in the supply of fuel for trailers to the port increases, delays will creep in for the vessels too.

Our network and expertise extend across the Indian subcontinent, with customers across a variety of verticals sourcing from and exporting to the region. We have established operations throughout Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh and will always offer the most reliable options available within each market.

We are monitoring the evolving situation closely with our local network partners, so if you are currently shipping, or are thinking of developing the ISC, please speak to Elliot Carlile, who will be delighted to offer guidance and recommendations on the best solutions for your needs.