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Earthquake death toll rises in Turkey and Syria, with supply line chaos

The 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Turkish and Syrian border towns yesterday, with aftershocks, has caused serious shipping disruption to container flows.

The impacts are still being evaluated by supply chain stakeholders and initial reports indicated there had been large-scale damage to infrastructure at Iskenderun port, a major harbour on Turkey’s Mediterranean side.

Containers there caught fire, and a significant blaze continues, according to media reports. One eye witness told social media this morning that the fire, which started yesterday afternoon, had run unchecked and was likely to consume the majority of stored containers and damage handling equipment.

“It was determined that docks at Iskenderun Port have collapsed,” said the Turkish maritime authority, which claimed operations were continuing at other ports.

Industry sources, however, believe operations in other ports could be hit by power outages and other inevitable bottlenecks, given the scale of the devastation.

The quakes also left roads around the Iskenderun port area impassable, bringing truck movements to a halt, according to reports and carrier updates.

As a result, ocean carriers have announced a suspension of shipping services out of Iskenderun for an indefinite period.

Maersk said in a customer advisory: “The port has unfortunately been subject to severe structural damage, leading to a complete stop of all operations until further notice.” The Danish carrier added that vendors were not moving any trucks in and around the area.

Besides docking facilities, a number of container storage yards were damaged, along with disruption to telecoms links.

Shipping lines serving the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions have already begun rerouting Iskenderun-destined shipments and reworking Turkish supply chains because of the challenges they anticipate in getting cargo to the destinations.

Maersk also noted that booking cancellations, amendments and destination changes for Iskenderun and Mersin would be accepted free of charge through to the end of the month, but added: “It is not yet clear when the port of Iskenderun will see a return to normal operations.”

As an interim measure to deal with the crisis, carriers are planning to divert all Iskenderun-bound shipments for discharge at nearby hubs, including Mersin and Port Said. But they have put a caveat on such ad-hoc arrangements: alternative solutions will be subject to ongoing evacuation efforts.

“We are obliged to divert your cargo to Mersin,” CMA CGM (India) told customers. “We encourage our customers to take delivery of their cargo in Mersin as soon as possible.”

According to the latest reports, the massive earthquake, and subsequent aftershocks have killed more than 5,000 people, with authorities and rescue teams fearing more fatalities as they comb the wreckage of collapsed buildings.

Credit The Loadstar by Angelo Mathais

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