Ocean carriers calling at Vallarpadam International Container Transshipment Terminal in India’s Port of Cochin announced plans to implement a “trade surcharge” to compensate for loss of business in the wake of an indefinite strike by container trailer drivers.
Unionized drivers walked off the job Feb. 4, calling for wage increases and additional benefits.
“The situation has deteriorated to such an extent that ship operators are left with no other alternative but to impose a cost-recovery surcharge,” a feeder line representative at Cochin said.
He said feeder operators between Cochin and the port of Colombo, Sri Lanka, would start levying a surcharge of $100 per 20-foot-equivalent unit until further notice. A trade notice is expected to be issued shortly.
A local shipping line agent said several rounds of negotiations between union leaders and truck owners failed to reach an agreement on a new wage contract despite intervention by state government authorities.
“Both sides remained adamant on their respective stance, and no further talks have been scheduled as of now,” he said.
The agent said all import deliveries and export arrivals are at a complete standstill because of the strike, forcing shippers to reroute critical shipments via other ports such as Chennai and Tuticorin.
The Vallarpadam terminal, built by DP World on a 38-year concession, is designed to compete with other transshipment hubs in the region, particularly Colombo, but frequent labor troubles could jeopardize port-terminal management’s ongoing efforts to woo more mainline calls.
Box throughput at Cochin from April 2012 to January 2013 fell 6 percent year-over-year to 249,000 TEUs.