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Logistics providers serving Pakistan are being forced to curtail services as the country’s cash-strapped economy battles a foreign exchange crisis.
With forex transactions becoming a major challenge, express logistics leader DHL said it was forced to suspend operations in Pakistan from 15 March for locally invoiced imports and restrict handling outbound shipments to a maximum of 70 kg until further notice.
“In recent months, the regulatory authorities have imposed restrictions on outward remittances for foreign companies operating in Pakistan,” DHL Pakistan told customers.
According to DHL, the restrictions have severely crimped its ability to continue providing the full range of product offerings for shipments out of Pakistan.
This is not an isolated case. Virgin Atlantic is discontinuing its connections between London Heathrow and Pakistan as part of a revised flying programme for 2023.
The airline said its London-Lahore service and London-Islamabad routing, which it introduced at the height of the pandemic in December 2020, will see their last flights on 1 May and 9 July, respectively.
“It is with regret that we’ve taken the difficult decision to suspend our services between London Heathrow and Pakistan,” Virgin said.
The forex crunch is also causing pain points for ocean carriers operating out of Pakistan, although mainline operators continue to call at its ports, according to industry sources.
Maersk told The Loadstar it was “making every effort to effectively deal with the Pakistan forex crisis and keep cargo flowing”, after consolidating operations in the country with the recent opening of integrated cold chain logistics centres to support online pharmacy platforms.
It said: “In the current macroeconomic challenges, Maersk has further strengthened the dialogue with all its stakeholders to ensure trade functions as smoothly as possible.
“Through collaborative efforts with the government, financial institutions and other stakeholders, several measures have been put in place, which have shown positive results.”
And with importers unable to clear cargo, Pakistan’s gateways of Karachi Port and Port Qasim have had to grapple with heavy cargo build-ups. In response to industry requests, Pakistan policymakers have announced an ad-hoc waiver for port charges accrued on containers stranded at the docks.
The Pakistan economy is gripped by an all-round quagmire, causing galloping inflation, which is unlikely to ease anytime soon. The government is this week expected to hold another round of talks with the International Monetary Fund for $1.1bn in assistance to mitigate the crisis, according to reports.
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