Shipping agents in Pakistan are warning that overseas container lines could halt export shipments because of the country’s foreign exchange crisis.

The agents have told the government that banks have stopped making freight payments due to a lack of US dollars, the Dawn newspaper reported.

Pakistan Ship’s Agents Association chairman Abdul Rauf warned finance minister Ishaq Dar in a letter: “If the international trade is stopped the economic situation will worsen.”

Rauf asked for state intervention to help ensure payments can still be made.

Rehman Malik, a member of the All Pakistan Customs Agents Association, said thousands of containers are held up at the port of Karachi, most with essential items such as medicine, food and chemicals inside.

“You can understand how this must be hurting our manufacturing industries,” he added.

But German container line Hapag-Lloyd told TradeWinds that the trade bodies feel aspects of their comments to domestic media relating to lines’ intentions have been taken out of context.

“There is indeed some concern on freight remittance but at present no single major shipping line has decided to take such action,” a spokesperson added.

The report said lines receive $5bn per year from Pakistan’s exporters, paid mainly in US dollars.

Foreign exchange reserves have dwindled to $4bn and this has had an effect on the ship recycling sector, as state banks have not issued letters of credit for breakers to bring vessels into the country.

Petrol stocks could also disappear due to a lack of letters of credit for oil imports, the Express Tribune said.