Container truck drivers at India’s Port of Chennai ended their strike Tuesday night following intense negotiations between the strikers, port-terminal officials and trade representatives.
Unionized drivers walked off the job over the weekend without any prior notice, protesting the alleged assault of one of their coworkers by a port official.
The four-day strike, the latest in a series of stoppages over the past two months, paralyzed cargo movements to and from the two cargo terminals at Chennai, the country's second-largest container gateway.
“The strike has resulted in a huge accumulation of inventories, making it almost impossible for vessel operations as also for receipt and delivery of containers at the container yard. Inventories are at a staggering level of over 15,000 containers,” a representative of the Chennai Steamer Agents’ Association said.
The association said the port authority refused to heed their repeated requests to open an additional exit gate during night hours to facilitate speedy evaluation of stranded boxes.
As of Wednesday morning, nearly 21,000 20-foot equivalent units, mostly imports, jammed the terminal yard, which has a normal storage capacity of about 8,000 containers.
“Even if a second gate is made available, we can at best expect evacuation of 250 units a day under current circumstances. Thus, we foresee the congestion would continue and is likely to take long to ease assuming no other interruptions further add on," said the association.
CSAA, which represents the entire ship agents’ community in the port, urged its members to explore other options within their shipping consortia to reduce the inflow of boxes until the situation is remedied.
Chennai handled a record 1.52 million TEUs in fiscal 2011 ended March 31, growing an impressive 26 percent year-over-year. A planned 4 million TEU deepwater facility, for which bidding is underway, will boost the port’s capacity to more than 6 million TEUs a year.