The move by the Ministry of Shipping, allowing the ports to run seamlessly for cargo clearance by considering them as essential services amid the lockdown has triggered anxiousness in the logistics sector.

In a situation where strict social distancing has been strictly adhered to, the move to regularize cargo as essential goods comes as a contrast owing to the amount of human interface required for moving goods.

This is where the Shipping Ministry’s decision to resume with normal operations of ports and cargo clearance activities – for essential and non-essential goods – appears “contradictory” to the notifications issued by the Central and State governments restricting movement of people.

The processing of documentation, sample tests and issue of test results, etc requires the functioning of many government offices and private entities.

It demands personnel associated with cargo clearance to visit all or most of these offices/ places to get the work done, in person.

The entire process involves interactions with many players in the entire logistics chain, posing threat to the idea of social distancing and also, inevitably, their health aspects as well.

“Some of these places are within a few km radius of each other, which could potentially become a hotspot for coronavirus if it enters the circuit,” said Alan Jose, President, Cochin Customs Brokers’ Association while speaking to The Hindu Business line.

The Kerala government has declared Ernakulam district where Cochin Port Trust is located, as one of the hot spots in the state.

“Considering the above facts and the Covid-19 affected cases nearby, Vallarpadam (where the international container terminal run by D P World is located) may be one of the most dangerous red-hot spots,” Jose said in an April 3 letter to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

“If all the cargoes are allowed free movement, the lockdown will become meaningless.”

~N Sivasailam, Special Secretary (Logistics), Department of Commerce(during a video conference)

“It is fundamental to keep the supply chain operational while also protecting employees and users”, said Sanjay Sethi, Chairman, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust(JNPT), India’s biggest container port.

“JNPT has undertaken several preventive measures to equip and protect its workforce. All our buses and workplace are being sanitised regularly,” Mr Sethi conveyed.

Although measures are still being taken to follow general guidelines and acts of self-caution while working for the clearance of goods, it still poses a serious question on the logistics sector over the health concerns of the staff involved.