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Shipping of goods under threat… as major firm warns service withdrawal

By Martin Kadzere

A LOCAL unit of Mediterranean Shipping Company, the world second largest shipping firm, may stop releasing containers to Zimbabwean importers who have not paid for their services and to discourage the acceptance of cargo destined for Zimbabwe aboard its ships worldwide, the company has said.

Mediterranean Shipping Company

Mediterranean is owed about $9 million for facilitating trade through sea freight transportation of imports and exports.

The bulk of Zimbabwe’s imports and exports are handled by the company and withdrawal of its services would nearly bring trade to a halt, the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) warned.

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Crippling foreign currency shortage has seen Zimbabwe failing to adequately pay for essential imports such as fuel, raw materials and medical drugs.

The fuel shortages, being one of the most pronounced symptom of the prevailing forex shortages is forcing motorists to queue for hours at service stations for the commodity.

Most companies — including manufacturers, miners and retailers — are struggling to pay for raw materials with some having already issued warnings they may be forced to close or downsize if no measures are immediately put in place to save the situation.

Failure to make timely payments has seen Zimbabwe accruing a huge foreign payment backlog.

Last year, Mediterranean facilitated importation of about 10 000 containers of mainly food stuffs, agriculture inputs and raw materials for industry and mining.

The company also facilitated exports of more than 9 000 containers, 7 000 of which had minerals such as chrome, vermiculite, granite among others.

Mediterranean said the decision to suspend its services followed failure by the company to recover amount due to its parent company based in Geneva, Switzerland.

“With the continued failure by the central bank (of Zimbabwe) to — having acknowledged our key role in trade, live up to their commitments, no alternative remains other than discouraging cargo destined to Zimbabwe to load on our ships or at very best accepting cargo subject to full payment in advance payable direct to our principal.

“The impact of this will be a reduction in inflows and by extension, outflows by approximately 125 000 tonnes of goods,” said the company.

“We are your trade link to the rest of the world and in layman terms one cannot talk of trade without giving any regard to the role that a shipping line plays within the trade chain.”

MSC Zimbabwe is a wholly owned subsidiary of MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company head-quartered in Geneva.

It is the world second largest shipping company, owning over 500 ships with presence in 155 countries.

CZI president Sifelani Jabangwe told The Sunday Mail Business that the intention by Mediterranean, if it goes through, would bring to a standstill trade between Zimbabwe and the outside world.

“We will be in serious trouble,” said Mr Jabangwe in an interview. “Our outward and inward traffic are being handled by them…they handle shipment of our raw materials as well as our exports and this will have serious implications.

‘‘We have, however, alerted the authorities and we hope a solution would be quickly found.”

Efforts to get comment from Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Dr John Mangudya were not successful. MCS said it was hoping a solution would be found to prevent interruption of trade.

“We count on the assistance and cooperation of your esteemed industrial board to —having assessed internally the impact of the above mentioned actions might have on your members, escalate this notice of intend to the relevant authorities you deem necessary before we are forced to take further measures that will undoubtedly affect your members and drastically impact on trade,” said the company. The Sunday Mail