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India has devised a four-pronged strategy to deal with the blockage of the Suez Canal, which is used by Indian exporters and importers for trade worth $200 billion with North America, South America and Europe. The plan covers rerouting vessels, prioritizing perishable cargo, stabilizing freight rates, and handling expected bunching-up at Indian ports.

The strategy was chalked out on Friday at a meeting chaired by special secretary (logistics) in the commerce ministry Pawan Agarwal and attended by officials from the ministry of ports, shipping and waterways; Container Shipping Lines Association (CSLA) and Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO).

According to the plan, shipping lines have been advised through CSLA to explore re-routing ships via the Cape of Good Hope which may add 15 days. “FIEO, MPEDA and APEDA will jointly identify cargo, particularly perishable cargo, for priority movement and work with shipping lines for the same," the commerce ministry said in a statement.

At the meeting, CSLA assured it would honour the freight rates as per existing contracts. “A request has been made to shipping lines to maintain stability in freight rates during the period of this crisis. It was noted that the situation is temporary and is unlikely to have a long-lasting impact," the statement said.

The commerce ministry said once the blockage is over, it is expected that some bunching may take place, especially at the ports of JNPT, Mundra and Hazira. “Ministry of ports, shipping and waterways assured to issue an advisory to these ports so as to gear up arrangements and ensure efficient handling during the forthcoming busy period," it added.

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