Thousands of truckers waiting at Syria gate
Emre Kaplangil HATAY/ Hürriyet
Truckers in Hatay protest the situation in Syria. Most trucks are now lying idle. DHA photoSome 4,000 of the 7,000 trucks that had been operating to Middle Eastern markets via Syria have stopped running because of the turmoil in the country, and professionals warn the situation worsen in September. Traders in Hatay, Turkey’s gate to the region in fruit and vegetable exports, are waiting for urgent government support on the eve of large lay-offs. A joint venture, meanwhile, is beginning new ro-ro line to Syria’s Tartus
With logistics to the Middle East falling by 87 percent and with the high cost and distance of alternative transportation modes, the situation is worsening by the minute. Drivers of trucks destined for the Middle East do not have the necessary paperwork to begin deliveries to Europe, so their hands are tied. Meanwhile, efforts to sell their trucks have been unfavorable, as there are no buyers in the market and the going rate for trucks has been halved. Many logistics companies are on the brink of laying off their drivers.
The stagnation in truck transport has led to a 40 percent fall in exports of fresh fruits and vegetables to the Middle East from the Mediterranean, as Hatay is home to Turkey’s second-largest refrigerated transport facilities. An alternative Ro-Ro transportation route from Mersin and İskenderun to Egypt is being considered as an alternative. However, whereas it usually takes four days to transport fresh fruit and vegetables by truck, but up to 20 days via ro-ro, making it a much riskier for exporters. It is also more costly, as truck transport costs $3,500 and ro-ro costs $5,500.
Mediterranean Exporters Union Fresh Vegetables Chairman Ali Kavak told Hürriyet that the real export losses will become clearer in September, but that the losses are currently at 40 percent since Hatay conducts one-fourth of Turkey’s fresh fruit and vegetable exports.
International Logistics Association President Ruhi Engin Özmen said the situation was horrible from the perspective of the logistics sector.
“There are 300 logistics firms in the region and close to 4,000 vehicles destined for the Middle East.
Most of these are lying around now. Economically, this has wounded the city. Exports to the region were $2.8 billion and now it’s close to zilch,” said Özmen, adding that they have been calling on the government for support to delay insurance premiums and tax debts.