karachi sapt
Karachi Photo: SAPT

A recent record-setting call from the 19,368-teu containership MSC Anna has created heavy landside pressure at Karachi Port, impacting supply chains in and out of Pakistan.

The 400m long (LOA) ship, deployed on MSC’s Sentosa-Shikra pendulum service, docked at the South Asia Pakistan Terminals (SAPT) on 30 May. The service connects Asia, the Indian subcontinent and the US west coast.

Located at the mouth of the Karachi harbour, SAPT is operated by Hutchison Ports.

According to industry sources in Karachi, there was a lack of preparedness for hosting such a large vessel, overwhelming the port yard’s capacity to hold import containers.

“The arrival of [one of] the world’s largest ships is a historic event, but the port administration failed to take measures to ensure timely clearance of the containers,” said Khurram Ejaz, a representative of the Karachi Customs Agents Association.

Mr Ejaz said importers were still struggling to retrieve thousands of containers that had been sitting on the dock for more than a week and, he complained, would incur considerable demurrage and detention penalties for the cargo owners.

He added: “The port administration must be held accountable for this oversight.”

The Karachi situation mirrors capacity pressures at major transhipment hubs in Asia, with Singapore bearing the brunt of the disruption caused by Red Sea-linked diversions. Port Klang, Hong Kong and Manila are also seeing vessels omit calls due to growing congestion.

MSC’s standalone Sentosa-Shikra loop began  calling at Karachi in December, which, the Geneva-based liner noted, would not only “open new business opportunities, but also improve interconnectivity and transit times between South-east Asia, China, IPAK and the US west coast”.

Its full rotation is Port Klang, Singapore, Laem Chabang, Vung Tau, Busan, Los Angeles, Oakland, Busan, Qingdao, Shanghai, Ningbo, Shekou, Singapore, Colombo, Mundra, Karachi, Nhava Sheva, Colombo and Port Klang.

Congestion is nothing new at Karachi Port, due to infrastructure constraints, and any additional volume buildup has the potential to cause serious trade disruption.

The MSC Anna also made headlines on its calls to the ports of Nhava Sheva and Mundra last month, before sailing to Karachi, but the two Indian ports have the infrastructure and capacity to service such large containerships.

At Nhava Sheva, the first MSC Anna visit was handled by PSA Mumbai, also known as BMCT. The vessel saw some 3,000 container moves (export/import), according to port sources.

You can contact the writer at [email protected].

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