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Container Trailer Operators go on a flash strike at Cochin port; handling operations come to a standstill for the past 4 days

Container trailer operators functioning in Cochin Port have gone on a flash strike for the last four days since July 10 demanding parking space for their vehicles in the Port area. The Port authorities have recently banned parking of Container Trailers on both sides of the road leading to container station while alternate parking area have not been provided for them. However, the allegations being made by the lorry operators are baseless, Cochin Port Trust has said in a Press statement.

The Cochin Port Chairman P Raveendran has appealed to the trailer operators to drop their unreasonable demands and call off their strike. They should fully utilise the slots allotted to them. The strike would affect the Exim trade of the port, local businesses besides causing unemployment in the transport sector.

Cochin Port has been making arrangements for parking of lorries and container carriers wherever necessary. A parking terminal was constructed in Willingdon Island in 2008 and the same is being operated by Cochin Steamer Agents Association.

Similarly, a parking slot developed at Bolgatty Island in June 2015 is being operated by Arpitha. During the 2014-16 period, notice inviting tenders for developing truck parking areas were put out as many as 8 times. But the efforts were not successful.

It was in this context the port decided to allot land to PSU oil companies on nomination basis for the purpose. Accordingly, one area was allotted to BPCL in Vallarpadam in July 2016 and the company has partially developed the terminal. Another land parcel has been allotted to IOCL and the company is in the process of developing the facility.

The Willingdon Island parking facilities for accommodating 310 trailers are available, and in Vallarpadam area there is parking facility for accommodating 445 trailers. And more is proposed to be developed. No other port in India has earmarked so much of land for parking facilities, the port administration said

As regards the trailer traffic to Valarpadam, it may be noted that the ICTT had handled 4.91 lakh containers last year, which require about 3.8 lakh trailers at the TEU ratio of 1.3, which translates into 1,041 trailers in a day.

Hardly around 300 trailers are parked on the road leading to the container station, which is nothing but waiting for the next call of business, while the others are on the run. The contention of the Trailer Owners Association that there are 1,750 trailers that require parking and the current facilities can serve only a fraction of the demand is devoid of merit as there are adequate parking facilities for the trailers that call the ICTT for business.

The Owners Association has also raised a demand of providing sufficient and free parking facilities for the trailers by the Port Trust and has also stated that they are not in a position to arrange parking facilities for their vehicles.

It is to be noted that the business model of container transportation is on profit basis. Therefore, to demand free parking when services are provided on chargeable basis to the clients is not justified. It is also the case that development of parking terminal entails substantial investment which can earn revenue only through collection of parking fee.

The Truck Owners Association is also demanding facility of free parking as is being provided to vehicles engaged on contract by oil companies. In the case of transport of petroleum products, it is the oil company that arranges the transport through dedicated trucks, which is arranged through tender.

The trucks cannot load anything other than the goods of the particular oil company. The oil company naturally arranges facilities for their dedicated transport chain. In the case of container trailers, there is no such arrangement either with the container terminal or the Port Trust, as it is the concerned exporter and importer or their agents who arrange for transport of their containers.

Moreover, the ICTT operator is providing parking facilities for the trailers entering the terminal for business (picking import and dropping export boxes) as is the case at all container terminals across India.

Further, ICTT, Vallarpadam is a PPP project of the Cochin Port Trust in partnership with DP World and the License Agreement which governs the terminal has no provision for the Cochin Port Trust to provide parking facilities for container trailers at Vallarpadam.

However, the port has been making suitable arrangements for parking of trucks coming to the facility for business and has plans for more such facilities in the future. The move of the trailer operators to stop services citing the reason of non-availability of parking space is unreasonable and unjustified, the port administration said.

It called on the operators to make use of the currently available developed facilities fully. More truck parking terminals would come up once the available ones are fully utilised.

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