Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone (APSEZ) issued new guidelines on October 11. The statement said that the Mundra Port will bar containerised cargo from three nations namely Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, from November 15. Adani Ports, part of the Adani Group conglomerate, said in a statement, “This trade advisory will apply to all terminals operated by (Adani Ports) and including third party terminals at any (company) port till further notice.”
It is considered to be India’s largest commercial port operator that operates in 13 domestic ports in seven states, including Gujarat, Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Odisha. The company refused to provide reasoning behind the new trade advisory and said, “The port has issued it to the concerned stakeholders.”
The new development is expected to be “a setback” since the move is expected to increase the cost of shipment. “A lot of North Indian exporters use the Mundra port,” said Ajay Sahai, Director General and CEO of the Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO). India’s total imports were $1,397 million from Iran, $435 million from Afghanistan and $14 million from Pakistan to India, during FY20. This makes Iran a larger trading partner for India. The depreciation in Afghanistan’s currency since the Taliban’s comeback has already affected trade with the country.
The latest report comes almost a month after the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), on September 16, seized 3,000 kgs of heroin from two containers that were declared as containing “semi-processed talc stones”. The cargo worth Rs 21,000 crores had landed from Afghanistan via Iran’s Bandar Abbas port and was in the name of a trading company based out of Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh. The Andhra Pradesh based company that was registered to receive the cargo had imported a similar consignment from the same Afghanistan company in June.
The Adani Group issued a statement, “APSEZ is a port operator providing services to shipping lines. We have no policing authority over the containers or the millions of tonnes of cargo that pass through the terminal in Mundra or any of our ports.”
A special court for Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) in Bhuj directed the DRI to investigate if the import of the seized heroin benefitted the “Mundra Adani Port, its management and its authority”. The Press Information Bureau stated, “A total of eight persons including four Afghan nationals, one Uzbek and three Indians have been arrested so far. The arrested Indian nationals include the holder of the Import Export Code (IEC), which was used to import the consignment. He was arrested in Chennai. Investigations are in progress.” On October 6, the case was transferred to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).