In an effort to cut down on “long waiting times” for shipments, Egypt will keep its ports running for 24 hours a day. The increase to 24 hours up from 16 should help the country tackles an issue that has cost it millions of dollars, Hesham Arafat, Minister of Transportation said Wednesday.
The extended port hours will not come at any added cost for shippers, Arafat added.
Mr. Arafat did not specify how long the new policy would remain in place or when the new port hours would take effect.
Traders have complained of the growing demurrage fees over recent months caused by long delays for their vessels at Egyptian ports that have raised the cost of doing business.
Over the last year grain traders have added hefty premiums on shipments headed to Egypt, the world’s largest wheat buyer, partly as a result of soaring demurrage fees costs borne by suppliers if they fail to unload their ships on time.
According to the traders the high demurrage fees have resulted from congestion at Egypt’s ports and what they say is a slow inspection process stalling their vessels, causing them to add risk premiums of up to $500,000 on individual cargoes.
In February, GASC, Egypt’s state grain buyer set new tender terms to cap demurrage fees after major suppliers ignored state wheat tenders.
Traders said under the current system, shippers would be able to pay for additional time at the port beyond the regular 16 hours.
One of the Cairo-based traders called the improved hours a “good move” in avoiding additional costs, but said much of the current problem was also linked to a lack of storage space at Egypt’s over crowded ports, something which the new policy has not corrected.
“Some of the storage areas inside the port don’t have enough space to discharge the whole quantities,” he said.