Strike Cripples Indian Port

Strike Cripples Indian Port

Union workers at India’s Port of Cochin Tuesday called a 72-hour strike, severely disrupting operations and cargo movements in the country’s southeastern region.

Workers are demanding job protection as the port authority plans to transfer all container-handling operations to a new private terminal, slated to open in October.

The Trade Union Coordination Committee, representing all major labor groups in the port, said nearly 4,000 workers currently employed in the port terminal will be left jobless once container operations are shifted. Union leaders are demanding that the port authority insist that private terminal management hire existing port workers.

They also called on the authority to ensure the port terminal continues to handle coastal, combi and defense cargo vessels in a bid to minimize job losses.

Dubai-based DP World is developing the build-operate-transfer facility, called the International Container Transshipment Terminal, at a cost of $500 million.

ICTT is expected to offer an annual capacity of 1 million 20-foot equivalent units in the first phase.

The disruption is the latest in a string of work stoppages at Cochin in recent months, threatening to ruin prospects for the country’s first transshipment facility. The authority recently announced concessions on vessel-related and terminal-handling charges to lure more mainline calls and compete with leading transshipment hubs in the region, particularly Sri Lanka’s Port of Colombo.

Cochin handled 290,000 TEUs in fiscal 2009-10 ending March 31, up from 261,000 TEUs the previous year. Volume for the April-July quarter increased to 118,000 TEUs from 100,000 TEUs.