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Bureau of International Recycling lobbies to speed up scrap flows

New York — The Bureau of International Recycling is actively reaching out to governments and the international shipping industry to help with the flow of scrap as the world deals with an unprecedented lockdown in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, the lobby group said Tuesday.

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Measures to reduce transmission of the COVID-19 virus have restricted the movements of citizens, and sometimes goods. This has an impact on the movement of recyclables from facilities in exporting countries to facilities in importing countries, according to the BIR.

In a statement the bureau said that it has contacted governments, "shipping lines and their international organizations, as well as port authorities, so that they support the recycling industries' request to waive costs and fees on containers stuck in ports due to government shutdowns, as well as ground charge for stuck containers."

"[Ferrous scrap] shipment is very risky at the moment with the ports [situation]. It will be like a balloon bursting if a vessel goes into quarantine for 14 days -- who will pay for 14 days of being [stuck] in the port?" a Turkish mill source told S&P Global Platts.

Despite the concern, Platts has heard two bulk ferrous scrap cargoes booked by Turkish mills in recent days, as a number of mills continue steel production, while many have announced temporary stoppages.

BIR is also promoting the implementation of "green lanes" in order to expedite trade in goods, including in recyclables.

One UK scrap trader said that he had heard anecdotal evidence that China is almost back up and running, currently operating around 80-90%. "The bit they are missing now is the export market, with the rest of the world on lockdown. They have started to buy some scrap, though I don't hold out much hope for India," he said.

Port shutdowns

In an effort to help the flow of scrap and other material in and out of India, the country's government has relaxed required paperwork until the coronavirus lockdown has finished, Platts reported April 3.

Indian ports are allowed to invoke force majeure due to COVID-19. Operations have not completely stopped as ports services such as transportation of goods by water come under the essential services category, but some port activities are affected.

The government document issued April said that official papers can be waived in order to get goods in and out of the country.

March saw a shutdown, albeit temporarily, at the port of Houston, with safety protocols also coming into force at many other ports across the world, including the port of Barcelona, and key questions remain as to whether this will be a recurring event going forward.

"There are still logistical delays at Spanish and Italian ports and we may see that increase to some other countries like Greece and North African nations which are already showing some jittery effects," said one Mediterranean carrier source.

With issues surrounding port slowdowns across the world, despite port employees being classified as key workers in many nations, there are expected to be more logistical problems going forward, and the issues regarding increased costs and fees associated with these stuck containers will likely only increase as time goes on.

"The issue isn't really whether the ports are operational at the moment, it's the number of truckers, the warehouse staff at the companies buying goods -- these are the people that we should be worried about as they are not classified as key workers. If you can't move goods from the port, it's not much good if the ports are fully operational or not," said a freight forwarder source.