KARACHI: A potential wheat and flour crisis looms for consumers after the release of imported wheat-loaded trucks from ports was suspended due to the implementation of limited load regulations by port authorities from Oct 12.
Flour millers are concerned that the stoppage of imported wheat at the ports will lead to higher prices for various flour varieties, owing to the rising costs of transporting grain from the port to flour mills in Karachi and upcountry.
Millers said that a letter from the Karachi Port Trust (KPT) Traffic Department regarding the implementation of an axle load regime at Karachi Port was sent to stakeholders, customs agents, and terminal operators on Oct 12.
The letter mentioned that, in order to enforce the National Highway and Motorway Police’s (NHMP) allowable road limits with weighbridges, a meeting chaired by the chairman of KPT with transporters associations, was held at the KPT head office on Oct 11.
Lower axle load limits may hold up trucks packed with imported wheat, millers fear
The meeting concluded that the axle load limit on all port’s weighbridges, in accordance with the Highway Safety Ordinance (NHSO-2000), would be enforced as specified, with a copy of the allowable load limits provided for reference and implementation.
The KPT letter said that trucks loaded beyond axle capacity when leaving port premises will be considered in violation of the the National Highway Authority’s regulations, and such loaded trucks would no longer be allowed.
Chairman Local Goods Transport Association (LGTA), Port Qasim, Din Mohammad, said the port authorities had cut the load on transporting wheat which may create a food crisis.
“I fail to understand why ports have become active in implementing reduced load instead of NHMP,” he said, adding that 30 trucks at Port Qasim and 35-40 trucks at Karachi Port are stuck up.
He said there is no such order for the export cargo so far and only wheat and some iron related items are facing this type of crisis.
“We will wait for two days, and if the issue remains unresolved, we will chalk out a future strategy,” he said.
When asked that the KPT’s Traffic Department had mentioned that the decision was taken after holding a meeting with Karachi transporters, Mr Din said, “all the stakeholders have not been taken into confidence regarding the decision on axle load.”
Chairman of Pakistan Flour Mills Association (PFMA), Sindh Zone, Aamir Abdullah, said that two ships carrying 55,000 tonnes each are anchored at the Karachi Port and one ship loaded with 55,000 tonnes is at Port Qasim, while three to four more ships will arrive by Oct 15 at the two ports.
President of LGTA at Port Qasim, Mohammad Ramzan, stated that a group of transporters is ostensibly demonstrating how to preserve road infrastructure by carrying lighter loads.
However, in reality, they intend to carry less load and charge exorbitant transportation costs, adversely affecting both the industry and consumers.
Ramzan said that some 100,000 tonnes of iron-related items are currently held up at the port in various trucks and trawlers, with more ships carrying 80,000-100,000 tonnes expected to arrive at the ports in the next two to three days.
For example, he stated that a six-wheeler truck can now carry 17.5 tonnes, including the vehicle’s load and its own weight, instead of the previous 25 tonnes. Additionally, a ten-wheeler trawler, which previously transported 45 tonnes, is now limited to carrying 27.5 tonnes.
Let the NHA and Motorway Police handle this situation, he said, adding that the government should sit with the stakeholders as the axle load regime needs amendments.
Published in Dawn, October 14th, 2023