COLOMBO port, which handled 7.2 million TEU last year, has been hit with massive congestion, a backlog of 50,000 TEU because of a lack of labour from Covid-19 lockdowns, reports London's Loadstar.
The congestion, building since October, is impacting supply chains in India and Bangladesh.
Rohan Masakorala, chief executive of Shippers' Academy Colombo, said the port of Colombo's workforce had been reduced 30 per cent hitting crane productivity and inter-terminal trucking.
"The backlog is huge, and could take six-to-eight weeks to clear up," he said. "Colombo International Container Terminal (CICT) mainly focuses on transshipment, while the other two terminals handle feeder vessels, so there is a vital need for inter-terminal transfers.
"The lack of drivers meant containers started accumulating in the storage areas of the port, which began impacting feeder vessels - waiting for more than a week, sometimes - and then even mainline vessels were delayed by one or two days," said Mr Masakorala.
Colombo handles around 600,000 TEU a month, feedering has being massively disrupted, with carriers forced to drop off boxes in India, Singapore and Dubai, he said.
"Even now, there are 23 ships waiting for a berth, whereas normally the port receives 12-16 vessels a day, so that's quite a number out of their window," said Mr Masakorala.
Inevitably, freight rates have doubled out of Colombo, with shippers needing to book up to eight weeks in advance to get a slot, he explained.
"Some shippers have had cargo rolled for four weeks in Colombo and two weeks in Singapore," Mr Masakorala said. "Freight forwarders were severely affected, as some emergency shipments had to be airlifted or go to a third port to connect, increasing costs and transit times."