A strike by unionized dockworkers Wednesday morning crippled operations in India’s Port of Cochin, a major gateway on the southeast coast.
Workers are demanding job protection as the port authority plans to shift all container operations to a new DP World-developed terminal, slated to open Feb. 11.
The Trade Union Coordination Committee, representing all labor groups in the port, said nearly 10,000 regular and contract workers currently employed in the port terminal will be left jobless once the private operator takes over box handling.
By The Numbers: U.S. Container Trade With India
Unions are demanding the authority develop facilities to handle coastal and other cargoes at the existing terminal in an effort to minimize job losses.
“All shipping activities are at a standstill and union leaders have called for a total shutdown in the port city Friday to exert pressure on port and state authorities. Currently, about 2,500 export-import containers are stranded in the terminal,” a shipping line agent at Cochin said.
A port official said several vessels were waiting at the outer anchorage for berth. Regional carrier Sea Consortium said its vessel Maersk Ronneby, which arrived Monday to discharge some 400 import units and load 500 laden export boxes, was moved to the outer anchorage Tuesday without completing operations to avoid idling and attracting berth hire charges.
At the same time, DP World Cochin said it is gearing up to launch its much-awaited International Container Transshipment Terminal, the country’s first transshipment facility.
ICTT, built at a cost of $500 million, is expected to offer an annual capacity of 1 million 20-foot equivalent units in the initial phase, going up to 4 million TEUs at full build-out.
Cochin handled 290,000 TEUs in fiscal 2009-10, which ended March 31, 2010, compared with 261,000 TEUs the previous year. Volume from April through December totaled 219,000 TEUs.