In an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 25 ordered a three-week national lockdown. The lockdown has been amended several times to ensure that “essential” goods and services are provided to communities, but recycling and many other manufacturing industries have not been deemed essential.
Furthermore, according to an ISRI Member Alert, “seaports have been directed to stay open to allow for imports of critical goods, but the clearance of these consignments—as well as offloading and clearances of scrap and many other ‘non-essential’ goods that had already been en route to India—is slowed by workers not reporting to work as port operators, truck drivers and other functions key to the supply chain.”
In an attempt to seek relief from shipping demurrage and other fees associated with the inability to offload containers or release containers from the ports because their operations were closed, ISRI’s partners at the Materials Recycling Association of India (MRAI) began daily petitions. The petitions led to the Directorate General of Shipping of India issuing an order “advising” shipping lines to consider not imposing demurrage charges through April 7.
In an ISRI Member Alert on March 31, ISRI shared that the Government of India's Ministry of Shipping has ordered all ports to "ensure that no penalties, demurrage, charges, fee [sic], rentals are charged" through April 14. Furthermore, the Ministry's Director General of Shipping ordered shipping lines not to charge demurrage fees through April 14, a one-week extension from the previously announced date.
Additionally, courier services contracted to move original shipping documents to and from India have been suspended. This could further impact delays and lead to additional storage and demurrage fees.
These orders align with India's lockdown, and neither the orders nor the lockdown are facing extensions at this time. Because of this, and India's labor shortage, MRAI is reaching out to the government and shipping lines to consider an additional 15 free days to handle the backlogs. MRAI has asked ISRI and the Bureau of International Recycling to support in this effort.
As of March 31, it's ISRI's understanding that shipping lines were not immediately conforming to the orders not to charge demurrage through April 14, except those lines that unilaterally announced such a policy.
ISRI is following the actions taken by India and will continue to provide updates as more information becomes available.