A strike by export container carriers has halted the outward movement of cargo from various cities in Pakistan - including an estimated US$167m in textile and clothing exports.

The carriers have been protesting since last week against a decision by the authorities to involve them in criminal investigations to avert the smuggling and illegal movement of goods.

Azhar Majeed, vice president of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI), believes exports were already facing serious challenges due to energy shortages, high production costs, and recession in key global markets. The strike, he said, would add additional costs to textile exporters.

Akbar Sheikh, acting chairman of the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA), claims that a number of export commitments will not be met - and is urging the authorities to intervene.

However, Shams Burney, chairman of All Pakistan Bonded Carrier Association, says the protest will continue until the issue is resolved.

Customs authorities have assured exporters that if the strike is prolonged then the government will engage the state-controlled National Logistic Cell (NLC) and Pakistan Railways to transport export consignments.