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Coronavirus lockdown: Mumbai airport faces huge cargo backlog, congestion

BusinessToday.In     April 8, 2020

The Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) has been facing troubles with a backlog of uncleared import shipments. The problem has reached such a level that airport authorities have told importers to "expedite the clearance of import cargo and support the airport operator to render smooth operations."

This problem persists, even though MIAL had insisted that cargo and airport personnel are doing their best to ensure that essential and coronavirus-related commodities are delivered urgently.

Around 4,500 MT of cargo is lying at the airport, India Today TV quoted an MIAL official as saying. Stringent regulations and transport constraints have adversely affected the cargo stakeholders, the official further said.

"MIAL has kept the cargo terminal open 24X7 and has taken requisite approvals from police authorities and provided vehicles for road transport of staff. Despite these strong measures, the airport is left with huge cargo backlog and congestion as the import clearances are happening at a very slow pace. The freight forwarders and customs brokers are reporting in very less numbers," the MIAL official said.

Another source said, "The cargo imports aren't getting cleared for quite some time. And this situation isn't what we would expect at the airport." Around 4 to 5 freighters are operational, exporting around 200 tonnes of cargo and bringing in about 250 tons of imports daily.

The Chatrapati Shivaji Mumbai International Airport issued a circular on the clearance of air cargo. It said, "This is to bring to the notice of all Customs Brokers/ Importers that they should not wait for the location number to be mapped in the system against the shipment, instead of after the flight arrival they should approach with completed documentation to Air cargo Complex counter for physical delivery of import shipments. 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 location /binning updation in the system, kindly process for delivery at the earliest."

Freighter flights are allowed even as all other domestic and international operations have been put on a hold due to a nationwide lockdown till April 14.

Sources said that initially the exports were less as manufacturing was at an all-time low and there was a restriction on all non-essential items. But the scenario soon started changing for pharmaceuticals and perishables.

Sources also said that the huge volume is due to the imports of non-essential commodities like engineering goods and electronics that have come in since the very start.

A MIAL official said, "There is regular sanitisation and disinfecting of the cargo facility. The concept of social distancing is explained to the staff during daily briefings. Besides taking care of all medical emergencies MIAL also takes care of basic safety measures like providing masks and gloves."

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