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Mumbai Port Starts Operating After Three-Day Shutdown

India’s busiest container port resumed partial operations, ending a three-day shutdown caused by a ship collision that stranded about $4 billion of exports.

Jawaharlal Nehru Port let one ship through this morning and will allow vessels with a draft of up to nine meters to move during high tide, Chief Manager S.N. Maharana said in a phone interview. The adjacent Mumbai Port is also considering opening its channel after a meeting today, Chairman Rahul Asthana said.

Salvagers are continuing to remove some of the 300 containers that spilled from Mediterranean Shipping Co.’s MSC Chitra and made the sea unsafe for passage, said Asthana. The shutdown of the two ports stranded some 32 ships and hampered deliveries of oil, grains and other commodities in a country that depends on harbors for 90 percent of overseas trade.

“We are not equipped to deal with these kind of situations,” said A. Sakthivel, president of the Federation of Indian Export Organisations, which gave the $4 billion estimate. “We have asked the government to get help from foreign experts.”

Naval Escort

An Indian navy vessel will escort ships as they transit the passage to Jawaharlal Nehru port, Maharana said. Ships will be allowed to move at a restricted speed up of up to four nautical miles an hour, he said. Mumbai Port will likely be restricted to smaller ships if it opens, said Asthana.

“We are trying to get some shipping done today,” he said.

India’s government has told salvagers to accelerate their work with the aim of clearing the containers by Aug. 14, Rakesh Srivastava, joint secretary for ports at the Ministry of Shipping, said in an interview Aug. 10.

The Chitra had 1,219 containers on board, of which 31 held hazardous chemicals and pesticides, according to Satish Agnihotri, India’s director general for shipping.

AP Moeller-Maersk A/S’s Indian unit, which runs a terminal at Jawaharlal Nehru Port with Container Corp. of India Ltd., suspended all export bookings after the shutdown began. DP World Ltd. and Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust also operate container terminals at the harbor.

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