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The world’s largest ever population lockdown has led to a string of supply chain disruptions in India.

In a bid to tackle the country’s coronavirus outbreak, around 750 million people are subject to travel and work restrictions,  currently until 31 March,

“Effective tonight, 80% of India will be under complete lockdown – everyone is working from home,” said Naveen Prakash, director of Global Logistics Solutions India.

“Warehouses are deserted and, while there is permission to move export-import cargo, truckers are being careful, due to the uncertainty.”

Indeed, some 60% of truck drivers serving Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) in Mumbai, India’s busiest container hub, have “fled to the villages” in fear of the outbreak, according to the head of a local trucking association.

JNPT terminal operator Bharat Mumbai Container Terminals (BMCT) said many users faced difficulty arranging pick-ups, due to the shortage of manpower and resources, and it would therefore be extending the free storage period of all import containers.

Maersk has told customers to expect import delays at JNPT and Chennai.

It said: “Some ports may have challenges managing windows as, for vessels coming from China, a 14-day quarantine is a must (including transit); we have two services which will be impacted, PKX and FI2.”

Mr Prakash said ports and warehouses had begun declaring demurrage waivers, but shipping lines, he claimed, were being “tight lipped, with “no information coming from their end”.

He added: “And airline bulletins are also not coming in – all the information available is one-to-one.”

Confusion over transport restrictions and exemptions for commercial trucking have disrupted the movement of fresh produce across India’s state borders, according to The Hindu Business Line.

“Harvesting, packing and transporting has become a big problem due to the clampdown on people movement,” said Pankaj Khandelwal, of INI Farms.

There has been similar confusion in the e-commerce sector, with Amazon and Flipkart forced to suspend pick-ups and deliveries due to local authorities closing warehouses, despite their apparent exemption from the lockdown measures.

Balfour Manuel, MD of Blue Dart Express, said: “Many of our customers have informed us that they are closing their production facilities and warehouses. In view of the developing situation, we have decided only critical pharmaceutical/medical equipment already in our custody and our network will be prioritised for delivery.”

The nationwide lockdown includes grounding all domestic passenger flights – international flights were previously suspended until 29 March.

Karthi Baskar, deputy managing director of Kintetsu World Express (India), said there was limited freighter capacity available.

“Pricing has reached a peak,” he told The Loadstar. “Only pharma products are moving, with rates ranging from $6 per kg to Europe and $10 per kg to US. Tough times ahead, but still charter opportunities are available.”

He said KWE was expecting a major slowdown throughout April and June.

“Most of the smaller companies will see a deeper impact with regards to cashflow and survival. Mid-size and large companies will survive for now, but it depends on how we manage staff costs, fixed costs and variable costs in this testing time,” added Mr Baskar.

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